Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh Bother

I really don't like being a bother. Really. I don't. But I think we need to define 'bother'. At least I do. So, read along if you'd like but this blog is written for the sheer joy of bitching about my day.

Before I became disabled, I would often hold the door open for people (not women, people) carrying groceries, small children and in one memorable case, a fridge. I did not find it a bother, ever, ever ever ever.

Before I became disabled, I would often stop to let someone pass. It cost me nothing to break stride, to pause for a second, it isn't war it's a walk. I did not find it a bother, ever, ever ever ever.

Before I became disabled, I would often reach to get something on a high shelf for someone of short stature. It didn't trouble me, I'm tall, it took a second, big deal. I did not find it a bother, ever, ever ever ever.

But today when over at the mall after work, I had to ask someone to hold the elevator door so I could drive in. She glared at me like I had caused her great disturbance by needing a wee bit of assistance. I HAD BEEN A BOTHER.

Then, yeah I'm going through the list, a man rushing by gave a loud disgruntled groan because he had to break stride for my wheelchair which was going too fast to stop for him. He rolled his eyes and then glanced at his watch. I HAD BEEN A BOTHER.

Then, I wanted to look at a book in the bookstore that was just a bit out of reach. I asked a staff from the store, a frigging staff from the frigging store, to grab it for me and you'da thought I'd asked her to have my frigging baby. She did it with resentment sqeezing out of every pore. I HAD BEEN A BOTHER.


When exactly did you all get so important that a few seconds would disrupt your day. Unless you are a frigging heart surgeon racing to unclog a valve, seconds don't matter.

And if they do you are ...

a) hopelessly disorganized and nothing you frigging do is going to help.

b) you have an empty life that you are filling with meaningless things and a second's pause may cause you to confront or acknowledge the void you are attempting to flee from.

c) you are a helplessly self important jerk and people only pretend to love you.

d) c was a bit harsh, but I'm pissed off, people do love you - but you probably have to buy them presents regularly.

I have decided that I'M GOING TO BE A BOTHER. I'm going to ask people for a couple seconds of their day. It's my mission. It's my purpose. It's my way of bringing some sanity back to the world.

Where can I get an I AM A PROFESSIONAL BOTHER ... tee shirt.


Belinda said...

I think the T Shirt should say, "I am a Speed Bump, Approach With Care."

Eileen said...

I think being a bother is a fine mission, for every one of us. It's about what really matters, as you say - a wee bit of kindness in the day to day would help both the giver and the receiver. Go for it!

The unpregnantmother said...

One of the things reading your blog has shown me, is how important the small things really is: the peace of a child sleeping on your lap, of enjoying a meal with enough comfortable space, of smiling at others . . .

I for one, am not treating anyone as a bother anymore! I'm sure I'll slip down once in a while, but in general I'm going to be more accessable to others.


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

As a person who occasionally uses a cane or even crutches, I don't seem to get that reaction from people who hold doors open for me etc. But, I've heard that people do seem to treat wheelchair users differently from people who walk with mobility aids, so maybe this is one example of that difference. People seem to treat others more rudely if they think the other person's impairment is permanent rather than a temporary injury, and they often assume that a wheelchair = something permanent whereas crutches or a cane = something temporary. (Of course, both of these assumptions are not always correct!)

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Speaking of "being a bother" ... unfortunately, for some people in some situations, NOT being enough of a bother can have fatal consequences. One woman with disabilities in Canada is trying to "be a bother" in fighting for her right to basic care:

I hope some of the people reading this will take a few minutes to follow the link and take action.

Jenn McWhorter said...

Here's to being a bother!

As to the teeshirt, you can make one for yourself at Zazzle.Com, they've got a very nifty interface and for text shirts you don't need any graphics capabilities whatsoever. Check em out, it's fun. :)

FridaWrites said...

I think Andrea's right about the temporary/permanent distinction. (I will look up your link.) It confuses me when people don't hold the elevator. If they don't, I can't position myself quickly enough to get on. But I can't understand the aggravation. Then again, I have had strangers help with very difficult tasks--such as lifting a tire that fell across my lift (one had been replaced the day before) so that I could not use the lift or close up the van. I'd rather people be slightly overhelpful (while allowing me independence!) than just bitchy and surly with the world.

Ooh, I like the zazzle idea.

Anonymous said...

Bother away!

Tricia said...

Grrr so annoying the wrong day for me to hear this since my husband's neurologist acted like we were a bother today. So frustrated with RUDE people.

Shan said...


Haven't people heard of karma?

Anonymous said...

By all means, ask! Sometimes it's hard for mobile people to judge whether help is welcome. Sure, the world has an excess of jerks. Still, there are plenty of us who'll happily hold the door for you and for anyone else, just as you did when it was easy. Some of us are even eager to do a little extra, and would be delighted to be asked. Go on, give us an opportunity to be useful - we'll smile about it for hours.
That said, we don't want to seem patronizing; we don't want to give the impression that we don't think you can manage. Many of us really do accept the notion that people in wheelchairs remain competent adults, so we need help to know when you need help. I'd much rather be bothered by you yourself, than by my own nagging notion that maybe I should have done something, that I missed an opportunity to counter the effects of those jerks.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

More positive examples of people who do truly try to help:

To "Anonymous": it's refreshing to hear from someone so willing to help, and to have that help be in an empowering way! I think generally it's okay to offer assistance -- partly it's just a matter of tone and approach -- if they say "thanks but no thanks" then you can just wish them a cheery good day and leave them to it.

The reason why some people with disabilities get irked at being offered help is because some people aren't offering help (i.e., ASKING), they just grab the person and start moving them, sometimes in ways that actually cause pain or injury because they're so anxious to "help" without understanding how to do so safely! And then some people insist on helping even if they've already been politely told, "no, thanks," several times-- which may mean they're doing something that not only is not wanted but that may actually make things more difficult because they haven't taken the time to listen. And then some people actually become hostile if their help is not immediately accepted with infinite gratitude! But someone who is equally comfortable BOTH with giving help AND with getting out of the way (whichever is genuinely needed more at that particular moment) is always very much welcome!

Sometimes it can be hard for a person with disabilities to ask for help in part because of the things Dave describes here (where sometimes people don't want to take just five seconds out of their day), and sometimes just because, like any one else, some may happen to be shy and find it hard to approach strangers. Or sometimes it can just be tiresome to always have to be the one to initiate a request for help. It can be nice sometimes to have someone else offer, as long as they seem reasonably flexible about HOW their offer is accepted/not accepted/accepted with modifications etc.

lisa said...

I am one of those people who like to "be bothered", so if you see me please ask. I always feel as though you are complimenting me if you ask me to do you a favor, like you must have thought I looked friendly or you wouldn't have asked ME!

I am sure there are more of us out there, so please don't give up on asking people.


Cynthia said...

I can't think that what you asked for were bothersome things. They did act like they were never taught, or never wanted to learn their manners! My three year old is more polite!

liz said...

I used to be a bookseller and I would like to smack that bookseller you encountered with a big ol' cluestick.


"Let me know if you need help!" was my mantra. Still is, come to that.

Tamara said...

I remember Larry King interviewing Joni Eareckson Tada. They talked about how much assistance she needs on a daily basis. I wish I had the exact question & quote, but her basic comment was that in her needs for assistance she provided people with opportunities to be helpful. Not her exact words -

My mom recently had some problems remembering how to drive somewhere she goes weekly, and I insisted on driving her the next time. She complained about how much she hated having to "put me out". I asked her to look at it a bit differently. It was my opportunity to help her - as she has always helped me.

When you give people those opportunities, it's sad when they waste them.

Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...

I am not being a jerk, I just can't hold open a door for another as my impairment is lack of muscle tone in my arms, man I get dirty looks a lot, especially as it is totally invisable that I have a problem, and especially when I use the automatic doors.
to the others, I'm just a lazy kid and definately a bother!
Zazzle rocks my socks off!
Soli Deo Gloria