I am afraid of heights.
So last Tuesday on discovering that the elevator at work had broken down, I had to face going down the stairs under my own steam. I asked one of my co-workers to go and get Joe, who was waiting in the car for me to emerge from the building. He came in and up and together we slowly made it down the stairs. I held on to his shoulder (thank heavens I met someone with broad shoulders) with one hand, grasped the hand rail with the other and slowly took a step down. My disability leaves me with very little feeling in my feet. It's very easy to go off balance and very easy to fall. The long stairway, the feeling of vertigo combined with a lost of equillibrium, made the climb down no less an accomplishment than climbing up Everest.
On Wednesday I had to work from home because the elevator had yet to be fixed and while climbing down was difficult, climbing up is impossible. Now, I like an unexpected day at home as much as the next person. I loved 'snow days' as a kid and I love them even more as an adult. But part of the love of 'snow day' is that there is a universal 'we're all in this together' feeling that comes with them.
'Elevator Day' didn't have the same feeling. At all. I was home. Everyone else was at work. I needed the elevator. They could use the stairs. I had a disability. They didn't. Normally it doesn't matter, but Wednesday it did. And the day didn't feel like a 'SURPRISE' you get to work at home - it felt like isolation. It felt like 'difference'.
At least it did until about 9:15, when my cell phone rang. My cell will ring here at home, but there isn't a strong enough signal to actually have a conversation. We could see the number that called, could see that it was someone from Vita. I called the office and Anita was able to tell me that Jon had called, she put me through. A few mintues later, after discussing what needed to be done with his powerpoint presentation, Jon sent me the data he'd been working on. Now I'm pouring through numbers and checking out his figures. A few phone calls later and that was all put to rest.
Then Rose and I had to talk about the outgoing email to all staff. There were issues with formatting and issues with presentation of the material. Rose had suggestions, I had comments. It took a little while but it got done. Then in my email box was a request from Manuela for something she wanted me to write and a few seconds later we were on the phone going over a request and figuring out how I could contribute to what was needed.
Banging on the computer here doing what I would do there. Talking to people here as if they were there, the sense of isolation managed to ease itself. Somehow I knew that people were being purposeful in keeping me in the loop and up to speed with what was going on in the office and my contribution was still sought, even though I wasn't there. I even got copied in on the emails about the elevator repair and what was going on with that.
Though no one said a word, all day, about the elevator, about my working at home because I couldn't climb stairs - there seemed to be a diligence in ensuring that 'disabled' didn't mean 'disconnected' - and while I don't feel grateful for the consideration, I'm certainly thankful.