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.