A word of power and a word of oppression.
Traditions are a big part of how we live our lives. Joe and I are no different, we build silly little traditions around silly little things. On our flight home from London we, annually, have our last breakfast at O'Neal's at Heathrow. They serve breakfast with veggie sausages, greasy eggs, crisp fried potatoes and toast. We like to sit 'outside' and watch passengers as they rush here and there talking on cell phones while managing children. Then as Joe finishes his tea, I wheel over to a store a couple doors down and pick up his favourite brand of shortbread. Every year he is surprised. Every year I am delighted.
We were picked up at the Air Canada counter, early as we always are, and we told the pusher about our annual tradition. He said, 'No', the first of many that day, he explained that he had to take us to the disabled waiting area. Once there we spoke to the woman managing the place and explained that we'd like to go for breakfast and could we be picked up there instead of here. She thought for a long time, I felt, suddenly like a 5 year old waiting while someone with artificial power determined the course of my life. Then she said, 'No, wait here.'
I stayed calm and asked her to reconsider but she had done all the thinking that she intended to do that day and said, 'No.' If we wanted to go we'd have to get there ourselves and be back in half an hour. But the flight doesn't leave for ... and that's where the discussion ended.
We sat in the ugliest room possible waiting to be taken to the gate.
At the door of the airplane, I explained to the head purser that my chair had been stolen from the gate, that I was the only one on the plane with a personal chair, could he keep an eye out for my chair when it came up and try to ensure it went only with me. "No," he said. He explained that it was tagged and that was enough of a guarentee. "But," I said and before I could continue he said, "if it goes missing the airport has chairs" ... Joe is furious behind me but whispers, "Just leave it." And I did.
I teach people with disabilities to say 'no', no to abuse, no to disrespect.
But these are a different kind of 'no'.
They are used to assert power, inappropriately. They are used to diminish. They are arbitrary and they have the capability of making the petty, tyrants.
My adulthood was taken away by a silly 'no'.
My right to a secure flight was taken away by a disrespectful 'no'.
By two people who have already forgotten the moment, already lost the rush of power that they had ... but I am sure they are both popping the vein and getting ready to feed their addiction to power ... I am totally sure.