Monday, October 27, 2008

Hello Hello, It's Me - Dave

I'm a good shopper. I have shopping skills. I know a bargain, I know a scam and I am very seldom duped. I enjoy comparison shopping and I will sit in my chair for the few minutes it takes to figure out if the larger can is cheaper per ounce than the smaller can (often it isn't). I don't do this because I'm tight with my money, I do it because I can - because this is sport for me.

I just didn't realize what it must look like.

I just didn't realize how people love assumptions.

This was a weekend spent in the kitchen. On Friday after work we went to the big grocery mart to pick up the fixings for making a vat of chili as we intended to do some canning. We like having home made food to come home to after a spell on the road. And, if I may say so, we make the best chili that there is to be made. When we left work Friday I didn't want to go straight home so we decided to get the stuff so we could make the chili first thing Saturday morning.

Joe went off to pick up some Imperial Cheese (the sharpest toast cheese you can buy) while I sat and did the beans. I studiously arranged the kidney beans by price, automatically eliminated the ones that were overpriced and then began the math comparing the rest. I was almost done when I heard a woman behind me say to her husband, "It's so sad."

Well there are lots of things to be sad about so I didn't automatically think that she was talking about me. After all, it isn't always all about me. So I just continued on picking out the beans. We use a variety of beans in our chili, so once the red kidney beans are done, it's time to work through the white kidney beans, then the Mexican small beans, then the black beans. It takes a few moments.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I glanced up to see a woman, maybe 40 - maybe more, looking at me with eyes glistening with tears. "Would a few extra dollars help?" I stared at her stunned and then realized that she must have thought that, because I was disabled, because I was careful shopping, I was really poor. I sputtered out a response, "No, thank you, really, I'm alright."

She smiled a sad smile, "You are very brave."

"No really, I'm alright for money, I just like to ..." but I stopped talking because I knew she wasn't listening. She had seen what she wanted to see, a poor, dependant, disabled person making a brave attempt to live within his pitiful means. Sick rose up in my stomach and I fought the impulse to buy expensive beans (but let's not be hasty, I'd already done most of the math).

No wonder people fear disability, fear becoming disabled, because when they look out at disability they look in at prejudice and preconception. When they see someone with a disability living a full life, they have to factor something else in - they have to make it exceptional in some way.

I left the store wondering if anyone would ever see me again.

As big as I am, would I ever be visible to someone again.

Would I ever just be Dave living a Dave-ly life ... or will I always be - crippled.


Heike said...

Next time, take the money and buy yourself and Joe a nice beer. Makes her happy, makes Joe happy, makes you happy. It's *their* prejudice (but then again, better than asking you if you should be out amongst the beans by yourself).

Anonymous said...

When you wrote this I thought of the words hit like a fist card. Not an appropriate choice but then I thought you could give her your business card - Director of Clinical Services. We could type something on the back like, I'm employed, valued and make really important decisions! Or that other saying - when you assume U make an Ass...... See you in the office. MDN

william Peace said...

This story reminds me of what happened to me a very long time ago. I lived in New York City and was having dental problems. I had an early morning dentist appointment and was outside a large office building on 5th Avenue in Midtown drinking a cup of coffee waiting for the doors to open. I was not paying attention to people passing by as I was too absorbed in my own dental misery. Then I suddenly heard a plop and realized a business man walking by dropped quarters into my coffee cup! The guy passing by assumed I was a beggar. The pain in my teeth was replaced by a much larger pain from society.

Joanne and Becca said...

Huh? I am only part of the disability world because of my friend and now my son with DS but beore them I wouldn't have even thought things like that. And to offer money?? I only know my feelings and I can only hope that more people have my attitude and not the one of this ridiculous lady.

Gary said...

Would you consider mentioning my newly-published memoir on your blog? I would be happy to exchange blog feeds as well.

Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio was recently released by The University of Iowa Press.

The memoir is a history -- an American tale -- of my fifty year wheelchair journey after being struck by both bulbar and lumbar poliomyelitis after a vaccine accident in 1959. The Press says Seven Wheelchairs gives "readers the unromantic truth about life in a wheelchair, he escapes stereotypes about people with disabilities and moves toward a place where every individual is irreplaceable."

Other reviewers have called Seven Wheelchairs "sardonic and blunt," "a compelling account," and "powerful and poetic."

I hope you can mention Seven Wheelchairs on your blog. We all live different disability stories, I know, but perhaps if you find the memoir worthwhile, you might want to recommend the book to others who are curious about what polio or disability in general.

Of course, the book is also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Gary Presley
SEVEN WHEELCHAIRS: A Life beyond Polio
Fall 2008 University of Iowa Press

Mabel1964 said...

Just think of all the wonderful things that would pass you by if you always made judgements based on just what you think you see, all the brilliant people you would never know and pity those that are so blinkered that they miss out on those opportunities because of their preconceptions.

Much better to have an open mind.......and I line up the tins too. OCD maybe?

Baba Yaga said...

"I just didn't realize what it must look like."

It doesn't. To anyone sane.

gracie1956 said...

I never cease to be amazed by the ignorance of some people. Perhaps reducing us handicapped people to an infantile level makes dealing with us somehow easier. Many times we are reduced to a level just below human. Kind of like cherished pets who are just well trained.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
You said it clearly "She had seen what she wanted to see..." There is nothing you can do about her tunnel vision. The parts of your life that you share here on the blog seem to me to be pretty darn Dave-ly and that is what I come here to read about. Both the extraordinary and the ordinary. And thanks for that.


ps - any chance you and Joe would share your recipe for that chili?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Cheryl, about that recipe. Every time we make it it's a little different because we don't follow a recipe. We have a lot of spices ... a lot ... so we play around. And then there's ... well, you've given me a blog idea!

Anonymous said...

I really *get* this post, Dave. I'm about your size, and B.W. (before wheels) I was an executive. I remember sitting on the GO train, just wishing that someone from the office would call my cell with an important issue to discuss (nothing too confidential, mind you). Then the people who were giving me that 'poor woman' look would know: I'm not just a blob with a cane, I'm employed, I'm intelligent, I make important decisions every day...I matter. I often wonder, too, if anyone will ever see 'me' again, or if I'll forever be the blob on wheels.

rickismom said...

To the last annonymous:
And before you had wheels, people didn't see you as a blob?
Due to my weight I am so often regarded by others as nonproductive.
* * * *
Just last night some visitors wanted me to join them on a late-night spree. I noted that Ricki would be alone if I did that.
"So bring her along!"
-"AH- she DOES have school tomarrow! How can she study if tired?"

They looked at me : school? study???
Luckily my older daughter stepped in and backed me up.