Monday, December 03, 2007

Waitrose in Bishop Stortford

I like Waitrose, a grocery store over here in England. It's a little nicer than the others, a little more expensive, but it has cool stuff - it even has ordinary stuff dressed up in slightly cooler packaging. Anyone seen their spices? When we noticed that there was one in Bishop Stortford, a town near where we stayed the weekend, we headed in to do some grocery shopping. We use a steamer and cook our meals in our room, it's cheaper, there's more choice, and as vegetarians (with me being diabetic) it puts us completely in control of our food.

We entered the store and found it chock a block with very, very, very important people. It was like they came to Waitrose to avoid the plebs who shop at a mere Sainbury's. It began with just a couple of hostile stares that were water off my back. Big deal. I'm disabled. Get over it. I was pointing out the spices in their cool boxes to Joe, when a couple made it known that we were in their way. She said an exaggerated 'Excuse me' and reached around my wheelchair to get somehthing.

Now the number of times I have waited for a two footer to get out of my way so I could get in at something is uncountable in frequency. But I'm made to feel that, for the few seconds they had to wait - their lives were put on hold. Like my disability disabled them. The trend had been established. People weren't uncomfortable with my disability they were rude, impatient. One person banged the handle of my wheelchair as he said to the woman behind him 'This is in the way." Now I was in the way, but I was in the way because the woman in front had stopped to talk to another woman and their carts blocked the aisle. But when the person behind looked up and saw the two women there was a bright 'Hello'. And they chatted. With me captive, saying 'Excuse me, could I get by.' I could have been calling out in another language from another country - I didn't exist.

I stopped by the tea to look. I always do. I have a tea 'interest' and I like to see what's on offer. I had picked up a box of tea to look at when a woman approached. "I want to get a box of Breakfast tea," she said to me pointing past me. "Oh, OK," I said and put the tea down and was putting my gloves on to push my chair and she said, "Now, please."

I leveled my stare at her. Took my gloves off and went back to looking at the box of tea. She waited then stomped off. My heart was beating in my chest. I was so angry. I then spent time looking at the people in the store. This was a wealthy bunch. They wore clothes of quiet exquisiteness. They had jewelery with just the right amount of glitter. Their make up, understaded. Men had groomed hands. Women had groomed everything.

Life had been kind to them. But they had no desire to pass it on.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be singled out for kindness, I just don't want to be singled out for rudeness either. I shop in other shops with other people all the time. But this was a unique experience. A whole community of shoppers united in their distaste of disability in general and me specifically.

OK, Bishop Stortfort Waitrose Shoppers - get this.

I'll shop where I damn well please, I don't need you persmission.

It's a grocery store, not a club - you can't keep out crips, homos, and the rest.

Life made you lucky - life can turn, don't get too comfortable with being comfortable.

It's bloodly Christmas - have you thought to listen to the words of even one frigging carole

You can take you attitude and stuff it in the back seat of your expensive car and let it rot.

I might be back to this area one day and if I am I'm shopping at Waitrose, this time just to piss you off.

My wheelchair is me - you touch it again and I'm striking back.

Real class is determined by manners not wealth.

You may be rich but you ain't got soul.

and finally...



Anonymous said...

We went shopping this weekend. Two people who use wheelchairs, and two of us who are paid to do cool things like go Christmas shopping.

Of course even though we went early it was crowed, and we were shocked to find an available spot for the van.

Their van is one that has the lift at the back, not the side, so in the process of getting the the people out of the van, the "road" for others to get by is a little blocked.

The gentleman was already out of the van and off to the side. The lady had just gotten off and I was about to help her move to the side while we put the lift back away.

A car was waiting to get by. The anger and impatience coming from the woman in that car was so strong it felt almost like a phyical blow.

Later that day, we headed back out to the van. Two woman stopped us. One of the women pointed to the man who was using his electric wheelchair and joking with me about something. She said to me, "can I pray over him?". I said you will have to ask him.

He said sure thinking she would pray for him in church and that it can't hurt to have an extra prayer or two. However she followed up to the van. She and her daughter wanted to stand over the two people who happen to use wheelchairs and pray for them.

We said thanks but no thanks. These people already attend their own church they don't need anyone praying over them.

It was obvious they wanted to say a prayer only because they thought there was something wrong with these people. They didn't offer to pray over my co-worker or me, and we may just be in more need of prayers than the people we were there working for, how would a couple of strangers know?

Two different reactions, anger and pity. Nothing of the Christmas spirit there. I think all of us were kind of upset by the anger, although we are all used to it, and extremely upset by the pity, even though we are used to that as well.

Belinda said...

Ironically, it's Advent, a time when we wait for someone for whom there was also no room, and for whom there is still no room. He inconvenienced people with his stretching of their preconceptions.

You're in very good company.

rechal said...

These are probably the same people who think it's okay to park in a handicapped parking spot.

Kei said...

"Real class is determined by manners not wealth."

So very true! And bravo to you for deciding to stay put rather than accommodate some rude people who clearly felt it was okay to block the aisle with their carts. What happened to patience and waiting your turn? They must have missed those lessons in manners.

Lisa b said...

wow Dave you hit it on the head here - wealth but no class.
I came via your post about compliance which was posted to the Sotos Group. I'm going to add you to my list.
hope other than areshoes in waitrose(I love them too!) you are having a good time in England.

Deb said...


Bravo, Dave.

Very well said.


Linda said...

Not only no class, but no humanity. How do people get to be so utterly self-absorbed and immoral?

I've had that type of behavior directed at me as well (because I have kids, because I'm fat, because I'm a woman, because I make choices that others don't understand, etc.,) and I know how sickeningly violent it feels. Hugs to you.

Mieke said...

Education is everything! These people have become rich, probably because of life's circumstances, but they lach education, or civilsation.
The essence of civilisation is this: being able to say: YOU come first, I'll come in the second place.

Anonymous said...

LIDL rocks!

lilwatchergirl said...

How appalling. Waitrose sucks - rich people's stores are dull :D

I'd have shouted disability discrimination for the people who banged on your wheelchair. How utterly crass and disgusting.

Anonymous said...

God how bloody miserable can you be? I'm a scruffy bastard and shop in that store occasionally. Smile and the world smiles back at you. I actually don't believe what you have said. It sound to me like you have issues and you just like to complain. Next time go in with an easy going friendly attitude and I am sure it will be a pleasent experience.