Saturday, January 05, 2008

Vulnerability

I had asked Joe to pull up, very near the door. The parking lot was fully of snow and slush and I wanted to get into the store with my wheels as dry as possible. First, it makes for easier pushing, second, it makes for easier pushing. Joe left plenty of space in front of the car for people to get in an out of the store so I didn't think it was an issue. Once I was in the store, I pushed myself around while Joe went then and parked in the disabled bay.

On the way out of the store, we reversed the procedure. I waited just inside the door and when Joe pulled up, I pushed out. Again, there was plenty of room in front of the car for people to have easy access to the store. I was waiting beside the car as Joe opened the hatch and was rounding the back of the car to help me get out of my chair and get the chair loaded into the back.

A man, who I had noticed glance at me on his way in, came out of the store and stood, his hands on his hips staring at us. His face was angry. I didn't say anything to him, I've learned not to initiate converstations with people with that kind of face on.

"You people think you can get away with anything," he starts up.

I'm now in the car but the door is open, "What?"

"Just because you have a disability you feel you can take all sorts of liberties. Pulling up here, blocking the entrance, making it difficult for everyone else, just because you are in a wheelchair."

Where the hell is this all coming from? We aren't blocking the door. I don't want to talk to this guy. I hear Joe rushing to get the chair in the back of the car. The guy advances towards me and I become afraid, he's young, he looks strong, and for some reason he's very very angry. I don't want to get in a verbal sparring match with him. I know I could win it. But he looks very, very strong and he looks like he wants to hurt me.

"I'm sorry, it's just that it's winter and my chair gets all mucked up."

"Why is that anyone's problem but your own, this isn't a drop off area, they've already given you," here he makes quotation marks with his fingers, "special parking but that isn't enough for you is it?"

I want to say that the "special parking" in this case is still a fair bit away, down a slope that's covered with snow and ice. I don't. I decide just to apologize. "You're right, I'm sorry, we shouldn't have pulled up here. We won't do it again."

His knuckles are white, but he backs off and heads back to the store, "Fucking cripples" he says glancing back at me for the last time.

Joe gets into the car, I close my door. We drive away in silence. We don't say a word to each other. Suddenly I find that I'm crying. I don't know what else to do. I had been so incredibly frightened. I can't believe that I just backed down like that. I thought he was going to attack me. It all took only seconds but it felt like time had slowed and a long time had passed.

"Thankyou for not getting into a fight with him," Joe says, his voice shaking. I could tell he had been traumatized too, "I don't think I could have protected you from him."

We had both felt vulnerable to his anger, his youth and his strength.

I have paused several times, even in writing this, I don't understand that kind of hatred. I don't understand what makes people like that. I don't understand why he needed to do what he did. But I do understand, deeply and for the first time, my own vulnerablity to another's hatred. And the realization churns in my stomach.

And I'm crying again.

30 comments:

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm sorry you experienced this. Sadly there seems to be a great deal of it about. To me, this is what being disabled is. This, and the control that social workers have to deny over our lives. The rest, well, that's just life, not too different from anyone else's.
But I'm sorry Dave. It's scary, especially the first few times. Hugs, BG x

Anonymous said...

Just you telling this terrifies me. I cannot imagine how much more terrifying it would have been to be there. It also makes me so angry - I want to find this person and hurt him. The "social worker" in me can't help but wonder How does this happen? How did he learn to be this way? What created such a mean thoughtless bully, but then the person in me just wants to hunt him down and hurt him. This should never have happened and you and joe should never had to endure this. The comment from benefits.... is also frigtening as it suggests this happens on a regular basis. This is not the world I want to live in. I'm sorry and crying too.

Belinda said...

This makes me want to write an episode of The Twilight Zone and put this man in it, but really, I could't even make light of it enough to do that.

The circumstance were an outlet for what resides in his soul, an ugliness that he must carry into evey interaction; a toxicity that he holds within and must pollute all of his relationships. I feel sorry for him and sorry that he crossed your path.

I do pray that something happens to change him, for his own sake and that of his "world."

Don't allow him to define your day Dave. It's bad enough that he affected yesterday. He can't get away from himself, but you can.

Ashley's Mom said...

I try so hard to be a person that doesn't use the word 'hate'. I try to teach my children to not 'hate'. But at this moment, I hate that young man with whom you crossed paths.

I've been in similar situations with my children who have disabilities. I never feel like I handle the situations well, and afterwards, I am usually angry with myself and/or crying also.

Andrea said...

Could you write a letter to the manager of that store to describe what happened? Or are you afraid that the guy who threatened you might be the same person who would see the letter? At least there is more distance (and thus physical safety) involved with a letter.

This kind of thing can also happen to transsexuals, as well. My partner is a male to female transsexual. She had an incident once in our apartment building with someone who works here that scared her badly enough that she ended up pulling the fire alarm to get attention and help. Hate crime against transsexuals is sadly commonplace.

Not remotely as scary (because at least we were not in the same room with him), but my partner and I once tried to get a hotel room with Trail's End Motel in Trinidad Colorado and requested the usual disability accommodations for me (TTY, strobe light fire alarm, etc.--any standard large chain hotel has these and some are willing to lend them out to smaller hotels; ALL hotels with five rooms or more in the US are required to find some way to provide them). And instead of discussing our needs and working out a way to meet them he swore at us and acted as if we were being totally unreasonable for wanting to stay at his hotel. We ended up going somewhere else (that also, unfortunately, could not accommodate us -- the ONE hotel in this small town that had the accessibility kit was refusing to lend it out to anyone else) in part because I, at least, didn't feel safe about the idea of going to Trail's End. I imagine it would have felt even more threatening if we had been face to face with this guy.

Karen said...

What a j-e-r-k.

Tina said...

I have come across this attitude too, and I'm sorry that he ruined your day. I loved Belinda's comment, that he can't get away from himself but you can - how true. When in this situation, I find that I can get VERY angry with the bully and they will back down - it's frightening for my companions as normally I am very calm and laid back. But it's a tactic that works as I think they expect you to back down and are surprised when you don't - that's IF I have the energy that day to deal with it. Chin up. You're worth a hundred of this pathetic bit of dirt. I'd write a very stiff letter to the company owner though.

Katrin said...

Very, very scary. Verbal force is scary enough, only to add the threat of physical violence, even more frightening. I think your decision to back down was an intelligent one in this case- self preservation. And most likely anything you would have said to him, would not have changed his views, at this time.

Just sad. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

What has happened in that young mans life to make him react so hatefully? There has to be something because I refuse to believe our society has gotten that muddled on its own.
I am so sorry that happened to you and Joe.
I feel sorrier for that young man because something is really not ok with him in his world that he has reacted that way.
I know you will be ok Dave you are strong beyond understanding. Tha young man may have seemed strong but he is really very weak.

lina said...

I don't know what to say except I'm crying with you.
Please accept this e-hug and know you are not alone!

Zephyr said...

You did the right thing to ensure your survival, please don't feel bad for not fighting him.

You're fighting people like him by living your life and being happy, and he knows that, and that's why he's angry, because we're out there and not hiding. He's mad at you because you literally didn't stay 'in your place', aka. the Blue Badge zone. Too bad. We have the right to occupy any space we choose.

andrea said...

Dave,
I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you.

This story sounds very much like the sort of event we see in our school (for students with emotional / behavioural problems).

I suspect that neither your nor your disability were actually the real "cause" of the hatred. He was probably already angry about something, and your presence was simply the trigger or outlet for expressing that.

Even so, it's abhorrent and inexcusable, and we all carry this fear with us. The tremors of encountering it in such immediate, raw and concretely real circumstances quakes us down to the roots.

Personally, I would file a report with the police. Even if you don't think that your individual report would "make anything happen", our SRO (school resource officer) points out that such information is still vital because it is necessary to create the pattern of behaviour or the identifying lead that does make things happen.

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
~Edmund Burke

hugs,
andrea

lilwatchergirl said...

How utterly horrific.

Can you report him? At the very least, to the shop you were in. I'd be reporting him to the police too. There's a lot of campaigning going on over here about disability-related hate crime. It's on the increase, and it's appalling. The only thing that can be done is to speak out about it.

Kei said...

I don't know what that guys problem is, but I'm sorry he chose to vent his frustrations out on you.

Hugs~

Shan said...

This is terrible. I felt the rush of fear just reading it. But the thing that popped into my head was "Discretion is the better part of valour". You just don't engage with people like that. Dude sounds like he's downright unstable and This Close to being violent.

I'm really sorry that happened.

Anonymous said...

so sorry this happened, just remember Dave you looked after yourself and Joe by getting out of the situation!
Thinking of you both
Amanda P

John said...

It is sad that some people have so much hatred and anger inside them. I guy like that is not worth confronting. He is just an a**hole.

--John

Anonymous said...

How horrific for you and Joe. That's reportable.Truly. Nobody should have to tolerate that abuse.I guess its the repercussions from this whacko that's making you reluctant to take further action, but isn't that the way bullying works? I am just seething so much .Why should he get away with that! If you feel safer having nothing more to do with anything surrounding this sad example of humanity,, know that, for him, what goes around comes around eventually.That's been my experience. So sorry Dave. What a shame that some people on the planet get their jollies from wiping the smile off people's faces. How sad is that. From p.t.

Anonymous said...

My dad is a big macho guy and he's not normally one to back down from a confrontation. However, when we were in a similar situation, he realized, like you, that the utter craziness of someone attacking a disabled person who wasn't doing anything wrong meant that he was dealing with a person who wasn't in his right mind and that this was potentially dangerous. He stayed quiet, which my mom and I were very relieved about.

I wonder, though... if he was there when you were dropped off *and* picked up, is it possible he's someone who works there? If so, it should be reported.

-Linda
fourlittlebirds.blogsome.com

rickismom said...

Lets face it. There are evil people in the world. Survival rates increase if you avoid them.

Baba Yaga said...

Sometimes, just backing down is exactly the right thing to do.

Look after yourself (selves) today - much the same as if you were coming round from or a physical shock. Keep warm, don't overdo it, eat good wholesome food, so your body has the means for recovery. That sort of thing. Experience says it does help when one can.

Mieke said...

Dave, you came into contact with a very evil mind. If you' d want to "punish" that man, you needn't do anything, you simply have to wait.
Before a year has passed he will have brought himself in a terrible situation.
Your story reminds me of the day a friend of mine and myself were being attacked in Spain by a young guy who wanted to steal our handbags. We hadn't enough strength to fight him, but cried as loud as we could, in a very primitive way I suppose. Nobody came to our rescue, but the guy fled because we made such an awful noise. It was midnight, but people might have noticed what was going on...
Afterwards we did just like you: we cried. And my friend felt that instinctively she had wetted her trousers! (Sorry if my English is the kind of language you learn at school.)
Hugs to you and Joe from
Mieke.

Michelle Hix said...

This kind of hatred, stubborness, and stupidity makes my stomach sick.

Stace' said...

Too bad you didn't have any Valium on hand to share with the Creep!

gracie said...

My first thought was,I sure hope he doesn't have children.Can you imagine the hell he could inflict on a child? When people act that bad in public you know they must be even worse at home where there are no witnesses. I am so sorry you were so frightened. Just reading your account of the incident made me sick. I am new to "wheelchair life" and I have already experienced things like feeling invisable, being pitied, receiving looks from people that I can only imagine the thoughts behind them...ect, ect, ect. I haven't experinced the kind of hatred you described and it scares me that it is out there. I will ask God to protect us all.

Melissa said...

I am not sure how I came across your blog but I began reading and then realized soon after visiting a couple of times that I live about 10 mins away from you.

Anyway, I am the loving mom to an adorable 2 year old boy who has cerebral palsy. I truly hope he never encounters someone like this in his life time. Unfortunately I am sure that won't be the case. I am just in shock at how horrible human beings came be towards one another. It is just so sad to me.

Jenny said...

Found your blog via half soled boots.
I can't imagine someone treating anyone like that.
I am sorry that there are people like that out there! The guy obviously has "issues"(do ya think??)and unfortunately you were his punching bag.

C said...

Dear Lord. I am so sorry you encountered someone who clearly wastes the space he inhabits. I'm afraid that if my little guy (or by extension, I) ever encounter someone like that I'll be unable to contain my, erm, response.

Kudos to you both for staying as safe as possible in a scary situation.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

This makes me sick. Clearly the man was mentally disturbed. I'm just sorry you happened to be in his line of sight when he decided to attack.

Just be glad you got to leave. Someone probably has to live with that guy.

BBA said...

He's the type of person to park in the handicap space! The kind you want have spend 2 monthes with a broken leg.