Thursday, March 25, 2010

God Loves You ... No Not You ... You

I am constantly learning that for most non-disabled folks the default mindset regarding disability is tragedy. There seems to be some kind of genetic need to understand difference as abhorrent and wheelchairs as the symbol of captivity. I keep running in to these attitudes, the attitudes that completely shore up the hierarchy between those who walk and those who roll, or those who talk and those who sign, or those who think quickly and those who ponder slowly, or those who love chaos and those who require sameness. A hierarchy that leaves one feeling somewhat pleased to simply not be the other. And it always surprises me.

Perhaps because I am so introspective, which is a fine way of saying 'completely captivated with the experience of being me' that there is little room in my life to look at the lives of others with either a sense of superiority or a sense of envy. Others lives are simply others lives, they become fascinating to me only in the degree to which our lives overlap. Other than that they are just foreign things. Most people's lives are simply movies I have not seen. This may sound cold, but I think it's more common than people will admit.

Anyways, this is all to say, 'I don't get it when people don't get it.' An example. I am in a store yesterday. I am reaching for something quite within my grasp. A fellow shopper approaches, eyes full of helpfulness, and says, 'May I give you a hand?' I was feeling the spring in the air and answered jovially (as only fat people can truly do) 'No, but I'll take your legs.'

I thought that funny and mentally noted to tell Joe. But the person who was at the receiving end of Hingsburger Hilarity didn't laugh. She said, 'Oh, my, I'm so sorry.'


It was a joke. Clearly. A joke. Didn't she see the delightful twinkle in my eye. Those who know me can attest that I have a marvellous and unmistakable twinkle, and my eyes were twinkling like a diamond in the freaking sky. Didn't she notice the devilish grin? Those who know me can tell you that I love my own humour and have this little grin when I get off a good line, and I had that grin, the one with the vague hint of dimples. So it was a joke in tone, in body language, a joke.


Man. She walked away practically wanting to hug herself.

Shit. She walked away not challenged to think differently but reinforced to think stereotypically.

Harumph. She didn't get the joke. And this is perhaps the saddest thing of all.


AkMom said...

I get it and I would have laughed with you!


Amanda Forest Vivian said...

I like the phrase "Hingsburger Hilarity."

I'm not sure what I would have done, though. I guess I would have to see your expression but I feel like I wouldn't know how to respond--I don't think I would have said "sorry," but I would have maybe thought that you were mad or annoyed with me or something.

Amanda Forest Vivian said...

oh wait, I just got the joke of "do you need a hand"/"no I'll take your legs." I missed that you were making a pun based on the phrase she used. That seems like a more obvious joke then, and not just you being "bitter" or whatever the stereotype is.

Belinda said...

"introspective, which is a fine way of saying 'completely captivated with the experience of being me' " I loved and laughed at that line; as a fellow introspector.

I am one of those who misses jokes! I do it all the time. My friend Susan's brilliant wit sometimes (ha, she's laughing at the "sometimes") goes right over my head, while I have my own quirky sense of humour that cracks me up.

My first assumption was that the woman's "sorry" was offered because she realized her mistake in offering unnecessary help. But I was not there!

Brenda said...

"Most people's lives are simply movies I have not seen."

Love this! And that's how I think, too. And often people don't 'get' me, either. *sigh* Aw, well...I thought your joke was hilarious. You're (we're) going through life with uncooperative limbs, while she's going through life without a sense of humour. Personally, I'd far rather live on wheels accompanied by giggles, than on two feet with no joy.

Kristine said...

LOL!! I want you to know that I mean my "LOL" in the truest sense of the acronym; I really did laugh out loud!

I love the "wheelchair humor" that makes people squirm. :) I'm usually not brave enough to use it on total strangers in a grocery store, because I don't know how they'll react. But I use it a lot with people I'm just starting to get to know. I find it works well as an ice-breaker. Once people have seen me joke about my disability, they realize it's ok to talk about it if they want to. (It also works well as a litmus test... If people can't take my wheelchair humor, then I know we're never going to be great friends. :)

There's a line I've had in my head for years, but never have the guts to use when the opportunity comes up. When a total stranger, usually a middle aged man, thinks they're being original by telling me, "No speeding in that thing," or "I sure hope you're wearing a seatbelt, speeding around like that," or "No drinking and driving, haha..." I intend to one day look back at them with wide eyes and a furrowed brow and say, "I wish somebody had told me that before the accident..." (But let's be honest, I'm never REALLY going to mess with a total stranger that way. :)

Kristin said...

ROFL...I love the joke and your sense of humor.

Molly said...

I would have laughed! and then asked if you were sure you could handle the blue nailpolish i'm sporting on my toes. but then again, I like to make friends wherever I go. I love to banter!

Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says-
When I was a child, my Mother taught me that "Different" does not mean "Better" or "Worse" - it just means different. I had no idea at the time how valuable that lesson would be.
People sometimes appear to assume that because I use a wheelchair, I am not capable of doing anything at all! Like the hoping-to-be-helpful woman you described, they offer to do something that I am clearly doing quite competently without assistance. So far, I have simply said something like, "No, thank you. I can manage, but thanks for your offer." - because I never know when I am going to need help to do something or other, and I think that positive reinforcement of helpful behaviour is a good strategy. I don't respond with a joke or wisecrack because it is my observation that many people who believe themselves to be able-bodied think of people with disabilities as "those poor souls" or "oh, you poor thing". Not people. They may be quite offended at a wisecrack from a wheelchair user, because it does not align itself with their "oh, you poor thing" view.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I had to stifle my laughter while reading your blog in the silent section of the library!

Anonymous said...

I think you're making an awful lot of assumptions about what's going on in somebody else's head. It is wrong for able-bodied people to make blanket judgments about folks on wheels.
The reverse is also true.

Gone Fishing said...

Another Small joke, we have just been asked to sign a declaration of rights and responsibilities form.

I will post it on my blog but the phrase which really amuses me is,

Not to do any activities that your medical certificate or health professional says you shouldn't (e.g.driving)

Just by standing I breach the certificate.....Bugger me.

MC Mobility said...

"Perhaps because I am so introspective, which is a fine way of saying 'completely captivated with the experience of being me'"

Laughed out loud at this one. Also at your joke.

I guess to be devil's advocate I would say that most able-bodied people are not going to be able to tell right off the bat what type of disability a person has that requires them to be in a wheelchair. And to be fair, there are people who might have just recently started using a chair (from an accident or illness) that are not ready to laugh about it.

Ultimately, your body language and "twinkle of the eye" should have let her know though that you are completely comfortable joking about your disability and didn't need her pity.

Very thoughtful blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, see, my sense of humor is such that I'd've probably glanced at you to see if it appeared to be intended as a joke, and then tell you that you couldn't get the legs unless you were taking the whole package, and with my warrantee run out some years ago, the parts just keep breaking and breaking.

Or, if it looked like you were joking, I might tell you that I'd consider your wheels an upgrade on what I'm getting around with.

Disability humor meets different disability humor. Hmm...that sounds like a situation that could produce an explosion...of hilarity.