Saturday, June 27, 2009


I always start polite and go from there.

We were overnighting in a hotel and, unusually for us, we were going out to the theatre for a seven o'clock showing. We were chatting excitedly because we were going to a live performance of Phedre starring Helen Mirren which was being broadcast from London. I mean, really, how cool is that. I had just pulled up to the elevator doors when two large, burly, men who were clearly drunk came crashing down the hallway.

I tensed. I don't have a great history with drunks. They tend to find themselves very funny, when their not. The tend to presume, wrongly, that I'm their 'bud'. They started by making jokes about how much space I was going to take up in the elevator. I'll pause for a moment for you all to wipe the tears off your face, that's funny that


ok, back. I smile, I mean really I don't care all that much. I didn't like how by sitting it put me in a position of inequality and they breathed down vapours of alcohol and cigarettes on me. Finally, in answer to desperate unspoken prayer, the elevator doors openned. I asked them to step in first. I mean I've done this before and it's way easier for them to get in, then me. My chair is long, they won't have to crawl over me to get in.

They absolutley frigging insisted that I get in first. As I began to push one of them grabbed the handles on the bar of my chair. I quietly and politely said, 'Please don't touch my chair.' He laughed and said, 'I'm just helping you, 'bud'. (You thought I was kidding earlier didn't you?) Now he used some force. I'm got strong hands and I held tight so the chair would not move and said, with clear anger, 'I SAID, DON'T TOUCH MY CHAIR'. He let go and I pushed in.

Predictably they had to near crawl over me to get in. I said, by way of explanation, 'I don't like being grabbed by strangers.' The offender said, 'I didn't grab you I grabbed the chair.' I said, 'The chair is part of me.' The other guy seeing the offender really, really upset changed the subject and I chatted with a friendly tone. I didn't feel friendly but I didn't feel like getting punched out either.

When the doors openned, I pulled out first, they near leapt out and headed to the door. Joe, who had looked like he had ridden in the elevator with a ticking bomb, took hold of the back and began to help me out. I heard the offendeer say, 'What are cripples for if you can't help them out?'

Let me say that again, 'What are cripples for if you can't help them out.'

So, that's why there's disability. So drunks can feel better about themselves by giving a helping hand. Ah, what a wonderful intellegent design, making cripples so that normal people get a chance to be charitable.

Finally, a purpose.


Glee said...

I can't stop laughing. I knew we would find out what it was? Onya Dave.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that was left laughing at your final line - I thought for a moment everyone would think me strange. But I just can't wait to use it... thanks bud, that's my purpose in life. I'm still giggling picturing that drunken fool.

wendy said...

OMG. Really. Just OMG.

CJ said...

Well, at least now we know the "purpose" of folks with disabilities.

Whew. What a relief to have that question answered.

Anonymous said...

I use a manual wheelchair, not a powered chair. And even people who aren't drunk get amazingly upset if you don't let them help you.

People who come running up to "help" me with doors that I've already opened.. usually getting in the way and slowing me down.

One guy nearly broke my fingers trying to pry a door out of my hand, which I had already opened. He nearly pulled me out of the chair, because my fingers were caught in the door handle. And was offended when I asked him to please stop "helping me".

I could live with it. but I'm also horribly allergic to cigarette smoke. Sometimes these "helpers" just finished one.. in which case its time for the emergency room again.


Holly said...

I am not in a wheelchair but my mother is. My father uses two canes. They are mostly independent but I take them shopping and to the doctors and on errands b/c my vehicle can accommodate the chair. I'm aware of the issues facing the physically-challenged in day to day life.

All of my life I was raised to be helpful to people who need it. Open doors for those with packages, regardless of gender. Give up bus seats to those who need to sit more than me, either older, burdened with packages, pregnant or physically challenged.

I would have wanted you in the elevator first so you had the most room to maneuver and so that I could take the next one, if the elevator did not accommodate all of us. I might want to help if I could because I was raised to be helpful.

There are frequently programs on TV and articles in the news about how difficult it is on the physically-challenged. How can one see these and not make an effort to help?

The comment was ignorant, but just as you want to understood and accepted as an individual formed by his experiences, so do those of us who want to help and sometimes don't get it right.

Glee said...

Wow Holly. I get the idea of what you are saying and it is nice to be helpful to people. But you say "I would have wanted you in the elevator first so you had the most room to maneuver"... What right do you have to say what you "wanted" in the lift situation concerning a perfect stranger? That's patronising and seems to indicate that YOU know better than the person using the wheelchair. Incredible!

It's this sort of thing that give us the shits.

Stephanie said...

Holy Cow! I need to either get a thicker skin or I don't know. I probably would have turned to Joe and said, "Really, What are big a$$ drunk for if not to use thier N^ts for a puching bag?!? The chair puts me at exactly the right height!" Where is the "Old Twat" lady when you need her???? LOL!



Dave Hingsburger said...


If your read the blog carefully you would have seen that I asked them to get on first - I do know how to load myself and others onto an elevator. Secondly, I asked politely for him to not grab the chair, I moved to anger as a way to get him to comply. I get the need to help, I have it myself. But if someone says no, it means no. Imagine you were getting up from a table and slipped and someone came and grabbed hold of you to lift you up. I'm guessing you'd feel assaulted, no? Why is it different for me?

Andrea S. said...


It's good to want to help people. And as a general rule of thumb, YES, it is good to offer.

But what many non-disabled people forget when they're trying to offer help to people with disabilities is,

1. Help only "helps" if it is the right KIND of help. You assume that it is easier for all concerned for a wheelchair user to get in the elevator first. But, any wheelchair user will have had extensive experience with loading a mixed group of wheelchair users/non-users into the same elevator. You don't. If a wheelchair user is politely saying "no" to something you offer they may have a good reason for that. In this case, Dave points out that his trying to get in first simply results in a situation where people end up having to climb over him to get in, which ends up creating MORe discomfort for him, not less, than the alternative.

2. If you offer help and someone politely says no, then the polite thing to do is to simply respect their boundaries and leave it alone. This is what a polite person does regardless of whether they understand why their offer has been turned down. (Maybe the other person has extremely fragile bones and joints and is concerned that your desire to offer physical assistance could be done incorrectly, in a way that causes a severe injury quite against your intent. Or maybe the other person simply knows better than you do what actually helps, even if the kind of assistance they know they need is counter-intuitive to your assumptions.)

Maybe you do already understand this fundamental point. Maybe you're already the kind of person who politely respects another person's physical, psychological, and other boundaries then they politely say "no" to the particular kind of "help" you're trying to offer. I hope you are.

But, these drunken guys didn't do that. Instead, they tried to physically force their "assistance" onto Dave. As Dave says, that's assault. Any person who refuses to take "no" for an answer when someone politely turns down their assistance is someone who isn't actually interested in helping. They're really only interested in making themselves look good, whether or not anyone actually benefits from the "help" they're trying to offer.

I hope that you're not the kind of person who would physically force assistance on someone who has already said no! But if so, I hope you can also learn to see the difference between a polite OFFER of assistance (in which you simply leave it alone if the person says no) and physical assault masquerading as help. What these drunken guys did was the latter.

Hint: if it potentially causes physical harm to the person (read the comment from "Anonymous" further above) or damage to their equipment, then it's not "help," it's assault. It's not even well-intended at that point because anyone who physically forces UNWANTED HELP to the point of injury or near-injury is interested in something other than actually helping.

Kristine said...

I wish the idea that disabled people exist just to give other people the chance to be nice to us was limited to the drunks! I get that from the do-gooders of the world. When I was student teaching, I tried to talk to the school about some modifications they seriously needed to look into to make their building more wheelchair accessible. Their response was to figuratively pat me on the head and give me this whole spiel about how nice it is to give others a chance to help out... So, I shouldn't be able to independently access the elevator, but should always be left waiting in the hallways for somebody to come along? Because I thought I was here to be a teacher, not a charity project, silly me.