Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Wonder

Oh man, am I having trouble writing this post!

I am in Quebec City and I couldn`t get my computer to hook on-line when we checked in last night. I was too tired to come down and write something in the hotel business center so I thought I`d just wait until the morning. And here I am, sitting in the business center with people all around me quickly typing and getting things done, and me ... well not quite the same picture.

You see the keyboard has a French configuration, which makes sense because I`m in Quebec but it took me ten minutes of searching before I gave up finding the @ symbol. Oh, it`s there on the keyboard but when you press it you get " not @. This means I cannot check my email, I cannot sign on to Blogger. I can do very little of what I want to do. I tried asking the person next to me but he just smiled a nice smile and indicated that he didn`t speak English.

The fellow on the other side just stared hard at his computer, I could tell he wasn`t in to being asked. So I called the front desk and they were very busy but would come and help. Finally, I found where the @ was. But for that whole time I sat feeling quite incompetent while surrounded with competence. I felt what it was like to have to wait for help while others did things independently.

I wonder at the amazing spirit of people with intellectual disabilities who seem to cope with this situation which has me screaming inside. I wonder if their `coping` so well sometimes leaves me forgetting how big a deal it is to have a disability that reduces ability to do some very basic things. I wonder if their patience with the rest of us leaves me without appreciation for what that patience costs.

I wonder...

(I just did spell check on this and as the computer is set to a French configuration, it highlighted every word as spelled wrong ... funny or what)


Bishrat said...

You'd think in the business center of a hotel in an international city there would be computers set up with an English configuration too. I wish you'd name the hotel so I don't make the mistake of staying there.

Andrea S. said...


When I traveled to Costa Rica some years ago, I had a similar challenge understanding how the keyboard worked when I visited Internet Cafes there ... the keyboards, of course, had been mapped to make it easier to enter Spanish characters. I think I learned basically by experimentation, systematically going through all the keys both with and without the "shift", with and without the "control" key to see what happened while keeping an eye out for any particular characters I needed to make.

Bishrat, why should English speakers automatically expect the whole world to revolve around us? Isn't that an awfully self-centric approach to life? Shouldn't we have enough flexibility to go, "Oh, okay, they do things a little differently here," and then simply learn how to adapt? Sure, it would be more comfortable if hotels in international cities would adapt themselves to us, not only in large things (like what language hotel workers can speak in, for example), but also in the silly little things like in key board lay outs in the business centers. But, frankly, it strikes me as an awfully trivial excuse to boycott a hotel over something that really only takes a few minutes to re-learn (assuming no cognitive disabilities). If you're not prepared to adapt yourself to the way things are done in other countries, then, really, why would you ever bother leaving home at all? What's the point? Are you that afraid of stepping outside of your own comfort zone?

Belinda said...

Ahh, how we take for granted, everyday, simple things such as a familiar keyboard.

This post reminded me of being in an office supply store once, where I needed help in order to purchase something and all of the red uniformed staff studiously avoided my gaze.

"Customer service?!" I wanted to remind them, but I also saw my own fingers pointing back at me, so often too busy to meet someone's gaze or to just "hang out" or "shoot the breeze.

What about having a "go slow week," where we all just slow down and toss paper for people and "focus" for fun.