I'm getting a scooter. It's a big decision but I've decided. As a result I'm now more carefully looking around me at those who have scooters. This past week I had a long conversation with a woman in East Lansing where I spoke at the University there - she had a nice looking scooter. She filled me in on the problems with scooters and talked to me about what to look for in one for myself. It was extremely helpful. As we chatted we moved away from the subject of scooters to the subject of disabilities and from there to the subject of life - the way conversations flow is a source of such amusement to me.
Thus, I was in Sobeys grocery shopping and saw a woman in a high tech kind of scooter that I hadn't seen before. It interested me because it looked sturdy, something that I am of course going to have to think about. I was in produce and she was in the bakery. She had obviously ordered something from behind the counter and was waiting for it. So I rolled over. I introduced myself and said that I was considering scooters and asked if I could ask a question or two. She nodded but looked extremely uncomfortable. I thought to myself that I probably barged in on her world so I'd ask a simple question and then get out of her way.
"What make of scooter is that, I can look the information up on the web?"
She furrowed her brow and said, "Listen, I don't want to be rude, but I don't want to talk with you, I don't want people to think I'm here with you."
"Oh, yeah, right, sorry," those words came out of me quickly, I was flabergasted - but ok if that's what she wants. I'm a typical Canadian when it comes to these things, step on my toe and I apologize.
She saw hurt on my face, I think, so she added, "I don't hang around with or associate with disabled people, all my friends are real."
Now I was stunned, she clearly didn't want to step down the social heirarchy and be seen talking to someone else in a wheelchair. "Well, for your information, I'm real too," I said while pushing myself away. I got over to the books and card section of the store where I could catch my breath and stop myself from shaking.
I saw her buzz by in her chair, chatting with a "real" person, and steadfastly not looking in my direction.
If she won't hang around with those with disabilities, or even be seen talking to one, ain't she lucky that she found 'real' people without similar prejudices? If she doesn't think people with disabilities are real, doesn't she fear looking in a mirror and seeing nothing there? If she doesn't want to talk to someone with a disability, I hope she never talks to herself.
I thought of the two women, the one in Michigan and the one in Sobeys. Both in scooters, both with disabilities - but to my mind, only one is crippled.