Monday, April 28, 2008

Well, My Oh My

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.

23 comments:

Andrea S. said...

I don't blame you for shaking. I would have been pretty hurt and stunned and just completely floored by that interaction too. How tragic -- for her.

In what world is it supposed to be okay for non-disabled people to interact with disabled people, but not okay for disabled people to associate with other disabled people? And in what world aren't we "real"?

wendy said...

All I can say is Oh My God! I'm surprised she hasn't cleverly disguised her scooter as a go kart so as not to be identified as disabled herself! Or maybe she could try being real herself for a while!

Betsy said...

ugh - that is horrible!!! I would have been shocked too, and had I been standing near and heard the conversation, I would have told her I didn't want to stand near her - just in case her ignorance is contagious.

I suspect she is one of the many able bodied people that has managed to get a scooter from some social assistance program because she doesn't have a car, etc. and is simply using it as wheels to get her around faster.

In other words, she probably wasn't unable to walk, just to lazy to bother.

She needs a copy of the Velveteen Rabbit - real is a thing that happens to you.

Andrea S. said...

Betsy:

Of course it's hard for us to tell without knowing her, but my own interpretation of this event was that the woman was recently disabled and still too uncomfortable with her identity to accept that she is now one of "THOSE" people. So she could be deliberately distancing herself from other wheelchair users (and maybe other people with other disabilities) so that she can delay confronting her own conflicted feelings about her own new status as a person with a disability.

People seem to think that there are able bodied people who regularly buy scooters just out of laziness. But I'm really not at all convinced that actually happens in real life. I don't drive -- but even if I were that lazy, I can't see myself using a scooter just as a way to avoid driving. One, that would be a hell of a lot slower than just using public transportation (at least, if you live in a city like I do where there is a decent public transportation system).

Two, there are still too many places that just aren't accessible to make a scooter a practical substitute if walking still is an option for you. For example, if you only need to walk (or ride) part way then take a bus to take you the rest of the way -- well, what if the bus lift breaks down (which they often do)? Or what if you want to go to a store that has steps or narrow aisles (as too many stores do).

Scooters only start to become an advantage over other means of getting around if you actually CANNOT walk, or if you find walking enormously painful for debilitating (for example if you have MS or some other chronic pain or fatigue condition). So even if a "lazy person" really did start using a scooter just to avoid walking for no good reason, they would very quickly find that their life would become constrained by the lack of accessibility in the environment around them. Life would suddenly require much more thinking and planning in order to accommodate their scooter. Which you can adjust to after a while if you really need to do it, but it would involve a big learning curve in the beginning -- ESPECIALLY if you weren't smart enough to anticipate the need for that learning curve.

I would think that a lazy person wouldn't want to bother with the learning curve. They would find it easier to just not go anywhere at all.

Nicole said...

OMG, I really don't know what to say. I'm stunned beyond words. Isn't it weird that there are REALLY people like that in the world. I simply can not imagine being that well..fake!

FAB said...

It's easy for us to judge that one person, but it's not just her, it's our communities, our government, our media, sometime our friends and family who instill fear, hate and ignorance. One day, this woman will learn her lesson, but what of everyone else?

Veralidaine said...

That poor woman. I have no sympathy for her treatment of you, but I feel sorry for her, lacking the community found in places like this, among people with disabilities and able-bodied allies who understand the REALness of disability. I hope she gets through whatever identity crisis that she's struggling with and stops distancing herself from the best places to find support.

Anonymous said...

She's a twit. I can walk short distances but more than 100 feet or so and it begins to get painful. I love my scooter! I spent 7 days at Disney Worls this fall with just an 8 year old for company and there wasn't anything I couldn't do. Unlike a wheelchair I can attach a big metal basket to the front and go food shopping alone. There are some drawbacks. It doesn't like wet weather and requires an expensive electric winch to get it in and out of the car but it has allowed me to be stubornly independant. Get one with the biggest battery you can find. mine plugs directly into anoutlet but the more convenient ones allow you to remove the battery, and take it inside to charge, leaving the scooter in the car. And gwt a cool color-sort of like the sports car you always wanted and couldn't afford. My next one will be bright blue and I might even get it striped and flamed.

gracie1956 said...

Tears were stinging the corners of my eyes as I read your post for today. First. for your hurt feelings, and then for all of us who have been taught that disability really means no ability. What bull shit!!! I'm just plain mad. Sorry for the bad language but I couldn't think of a better word.

Shiloh said...

The idea of "real" vs. ...what? "unreal" people boggles my mind. So, what is she in that scooter? "Semi-real?"

qw88nb88 said...

Sure hope she grows out of this "phase" quickly. All I can say to Ms Sur-real is:

GET REAL!

Don't worry Dave; sometimes you gotta be larger-than-life to get past people's conceptual frameworks. It sounds like you do a damn fine job of it!

Tammy said...

Wow, just wow. I'm sorry she was rude. I imagine she has a very sad life and is full of self loathing.

lisa6wks said...

That woman's close minded mind kept her from meeting and speaking to one of the most unique and enriching people I have ever had the pleasure of hearing speak. That was her loss and she will have many more with her attitude.

Lisa

FridaWrites said...

WTH? That hurts to read. Check out Amigo and all the customized seating options. Their scooters last. Call them with questions--they're very helpful. I have a cheap scooter of a different brand, and it's already not holding up so well, definitely not a long term solution. An Amigo will be the next choice, just waiting until after surgery in case that changes any needs. Pride Scooters also don't hold up long, as I've read on online ratings (unfortunately not bookmarked).

I'm with you on the laziness issue, Andrea S.--too difficult to transport them. Sounds like an example of self-hatred, lack of self- or social insight.

Shan said...

Man, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't believe the kind of people you meet.

I'm sorry that happened to you. It's amazing that perfect strangers can cut so deep, but they do. There's something about this story that makes me flinch...I think it's that you approached her with friendliness and openness and she turned around and lashed out at you in return. I guess you just never expect it.

Donimo said...

What an encounter with self-hatred. I agree with so many of the comments here. Connecting with others who have disabilities has enriched my life so much. I am sad that you approached this woman with openness and were hit squarely with a pile of the vile, ablest, xenophobic shite that society has forced into people. I would have been shaking too because it would have touched a nerve.

I do feel compassion for this woman and hope that she sees through her fear and self-hatred. I hope she becomes open to all that is "real."

I would add one thing to Andrea's very insightful comment to Betsy: your suggestion that this woman is just another of those poor people who take advantage of social assistance plays on the same kind of "real" (ie. decent wage-earning human beings)vs. "unreal" dualisms that keep people apart.

Louis said...

Re: Scooters (and powerchairs) -- there is a wonderful site for people who have various mobility impairments, most of whom use wheelchairs.
The site is http://wheelchairjunkie.com/
and the discussion forums are here:
http://www.wheelchairjunkie.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi

The main forum, where you could post questions about scooters and powerchairs and what others with similar needs use and how people like the brands they've tried and etc, is here:
http://www.wheelchairjunkie.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=forum;f=3

They are a community of kind helpful folks, as you'll see from looking at a few random questions on the forums.
There are people with all kinds of physical and intellectual disabilities on the forums, but all want to help each other.
The forum is owned by a fellow with CP who works for a wheelchair manufacturer, but the site is 'non-partisan' re: brands; people discuss the pros and cons of their different kinds, and also discuss other things that make life on wheels simpler and easier.

For whatever it's worth, I think you might find some useful information there.

Take care, and thank you for your stories every day.

Ros said...

Dave - think very carefully about the scooter decision and add in a consideration of an electric wheelchair.

I used an electric wheelchair for 20 years and have also tried scooters.

Why? Well - how many places you want to get into alone have automatic doors? OK - any that don't are next to impossible to manage without help in a scooter because you have all that stuff in front of you - you can't reach. In a chair you can grab hold of the door and use the chairs strength to pull or push it open. Of course with a scooter you can drive at the doors and push them open but only if they open inwards and if they are not swing doors you can't get out!

I hate having to ask someone to help me get into places ...

Chairs are less bulky too but these things weigh a ton - my chair weighs 76 kilos without me in it. So you also need aluminium extending ramps to get it into a car. And a car with a flat bed boot entrance - no lip or you might get it in but you'll never get it out!

No dismantling etc - just put the ramps up to the tailgate and drive the chair slowly up the ramps - remembering to switch it off when its in the car. You need to test the chair with the car - will it fit in?. Lots of practical issues involved. And if you fly - tell them the battery does NOT detach (make sure its a dry cell battery) and that you cannot take it out of gear (or it will roll around the hold willy nilly and get damaged).

If you want more info on my experience you can email me on cherrywood.road@yahoo.co.uk

Cheers

Ros

Susan, Mum to Molly said...

Crikey (with apologies for sounding like Steve Irwin) - what kind of person is that far out of touch with their own reality???

Sounds like a serious case of denial to me. So sorry you had to meet her...

e said...

EEK!

what is WRONG with people?!!!

rude & crude with attitude! you NEED me to come shopping with you! FFS! she would been getting a close look at THE FLOOR TILES! AUGHHHHHHHHHHH!!

I'm gonna go surf and see if i can find her at
www.driedupoldhags.com

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

Mark Pathak said...

From the late, great Mr. John Lennon....


You can shine your shoes and wear a suit
You can comb your hair and look quite cute
You can hide your face behind a smile
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside



You can wear a mask and paint your face
You can call yourself the human race
You can wear a collar and a tie
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside


You can go to church and sing a hymn
You can judge me by the color of my skin
You can live a lie until you die
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside


One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside...


says it all really

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