Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Did and What Didn't Happen

It started out such a nice day. I guess that should have been the warning. We are up in Gravenhurst for a restful weekend before beginning a trip that will take us to PEI and New Brunswick. A leisurely breakfast was followed by laying down for a good read. We were heading out and I entered the hallway. Joe had forgotten something in the room so went back in and I waited patiently in my chair.

One of our neighbours came along, glanced at me, then used the key to open the room door. But instead of going in he called to people indoors and they came out. He pointed at me and they all began laughing and talking in a language that I don't understand. I do understand being stared at. Being laughed at. It's happened all my life. For the most part I simply try to rise above. But the wind wasn't blowing that way.

I lost my cool.

I lost my temper.

I let loose with my tongue.

I've learned to never swear when you are angry, I have the capacity and the vocabulary to express outrage and I did. An untapped well of anger rose in me. I grabbed hold of the wheels and began to roll towards them all the while speaking loudly and firmly. Telling them that they were rude, ignorant people who deserved no respect from me. That if they hadn't learned basic manners then I was going to teach them. I heard Joe come out of the room behind me but I didn't care, I kept on rolling.

They froze. Like all bullies, they expected me to be passive and simply let them make fun of me. As I kept pushing, I suddenly felt Joe's hands on the back of my chair and he was coming with me.

They glanced at each other and fled into the room. I got to the door and banged on it. Joe was now telling me to let it go. I banged a couple more times. I'm not absolutely sure but I think I smelled the faint fragrance of cowards shitting themselves on the other side of the door.

That's what happened.

You know what didn't happen.

I didn't let it ruin my day. I got in the car, said, 'That's done with.'

And I had a nice day.


theknapper said...

Glad you could get on with your day....beause today I read that Ozzie Osborne has written a song about Robert Latimer....

Jo said...

Turning the other cheek is all well and good but I'm so glad to hear you stood up for yourself.

I was completely flabbergasted at the thought that someone would have such lack of common courtesy as to stand and laugh at someone, wheelchair or not!

Manuela said...

It never fails to shock me how truly ignorant some people can be. (I have other words but sitting looking at the lake its not worth the effort to express them). You did the right thing and most importantly, as you always teach it was them with the problem. Glad you went on to have a good day because it was a beauty of one in Muskoka.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Bravo, Dave! Where I come from, losing your cool in that situation was exactly the right response. It sounds like you lost nothing else and gave the bullies that they paid for. That's only fair. And then you regained your cool and enjoyed your day.

I can't think of a better way to handle such ugliness. I'm learning a lot here.

Molly said...

I'm proud of you. These people will remember this next time. and they'll shut their damn mouths.

Baba Yaga said...


& boggling a little at the blatantness of it.

Warren said...

Thank you for answering my questions, however briefly. I am always helped when people speak truthfully, directly and honestly. Answers or explanations couched in jargon, psychobabble, or cutesy slogans are not so helpful. People who speak with genuineness, straight from the heart ring have a clarity that is always most helpful. “Good manners” are not often an avenue to truth.

Perhaps this is not the proper forum but I yearn for a discussion about obesity, the extent to which obesity is a disability, the psychological impact of being obese in our society. Your post today is a good example of the kind of hurtful harassment fat people go through all the time. I was a fat child, frequently tormented by peers, loathed by my family, discriminated against by employers, and now, as I age, increasingly limited in mobility, stamina and health. One gets only pat advice, often unsolicited from health care professionals, and ignorant pep talk from civilians who don't really know what chronic obesity is about. I've lost (and put back) more weight in my lifetime than any normal weight civilian can imagine.

Your post today sparked me to write this. I keenly feel the rage you seem to have experienced. The injustice of it! But yet, it's a typical reaction of many people and I wonder what you would have said if they'd not fled behind a closed door.

Tell me to go away if you think best. I'll shut up.

Andrea S. said...


I'm not Dave and, although I have always been overweight myself, I have not experienced the harassment and teasing to nearly the same level of relentless intensity that some people have experienced. So I can't respond with the voice of experience, as you can or Dave.

But some quick thoughts ...

In accordance to the "social model" of disability, "disability" can be defined as the interaction of an impairment and the social environment in which we find ourselves. For example, I am deaf. Some people define that as an impairment. (Some don't, but that's a separate, very long discussion, so I'll skip over that.) Being deaf, in and of itself, is not a disability. What can make it a disability, at least in my view, is the fact that many aspects of my environment are not accessible to me because they weren't designed with my needs in mind. They were designed for hearing people by other hearing people. So movies, for example, rely heavily on sound to convey much of the meaning otherwise imparted by the visuals. Movies, having been invented, written, directed, and produced by hearing people inherently exclude deaf people because we weren't accounted for during any of this process. Not until and unless care is taken to include closed captioning in these movies. And even then, our needs may still not be entirely met if all parties responsible for putting movies out to the public fail to ensure that the captions not only are developed and incorporated but also are truly comprehensive and of good quality.

Similarly, some people might choose to define obesity as an "impairment" (some might not, but for now let's play along with this concept ... even if it isn't an "impairment," per se, it is still a DIFFERENCE in how the body might be shaped or how it might function). But by itself, in accordance to the social model, it wouldn't be a disability. What would make it a disability is the INTERACTION with the wider social environment around us. Chairs, for example, are designed on the assumption that people are of a certain size. Children are "disabled" by chairs designed for grown ups, and people who are larger than average may also be "disabled" by chairs that aren't wide enough for them. The solution to this is not necessarily to "fix" the "impairment" ... particularly if the impairment either cannot be fixed at all or could only be fixed with extraordinary effort. Often what is really needed is to fix the environment so that it is better suited to ALL people's needs, not just those who are privileged with an "average" body within a certain height and weight range, able to hear and see and otherwise sense within a certain range, able to move their body within a certain range and types of movements, and so forth.

You might also find some interesting thoughts if you google the term "fatphobia." I am not very knowledgeable about that field. Most of the very little bit I know, I learned through reading blogs by people with various disabilities who also happen to have been labeled as "obese" and write in protest of how that condition has been pathologized, targeted for discrimination, etc.

I know there were one or two interesting posts among the huge collection of posts at ... but I can't seem to re-locate it right now :-(

I hope this helps. I'm not sure if this is the sort of comment you were looking for.

Susan said...

I once inadvertantly got in front of a crowd of several thousand demonstrators who mistakenly turned their wrath on me. They thought I was one of "the bad guys" they were demonstrating against, but I wasn't. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had no idea what was going on. They were all, thousands of them, pointing at me and my five young children, ages 5 through 12 at the time, and shouting and screaming, "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" The sound was deafening and it was all directed at me. Thousands of people - all became "one" - I learned that day about the "mob mentality" and what a powerful and frightening thing it can be. It was terrifying to say the least. I looked at my children cowering and afraid, tears running down their faces, and I turned on that crowd with all the vengeance of a she-bear whose young has been threatened. "NO!" I shouted with all I could muster. "Shame on YOU!" I pointed right back in their direction as if to take all the shame they were attempting to heap on me and put it all right back on them where it belonged. "Look at these children! Shame on YOU!" I turned and herded my frightened little flock into the lobby of the hotel we were in front of, but before I did, I turned one more time and shouted, "Shame on YOU!" The crowd roared louder and drowned me out, but I knew who'd won. Not the cowards out there...

Dave, I'm really proud of you. Way to go. Who knows how many people will be saved from being laughed at by that cowardly clan because you stood up instead of sitting by? But because I care about you, thanks most of all for doing it for you.

theknapper said...

I think bullies need to know that what they're doing isn't ok. Good for you for giving it back to them! and for being able to get on with your day.

jypsy said...

Please let me in on your PEI plans

Cynthia F. said...

woot woot! could you sling a cowboy gunbelt on Hank, I wonder? Just for effect? With shiny kiddie guns and a sheriff's badge? I love when you take on the bullies, Dave. It gives me courage to do it next time myself.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Warren, please don't go away. However be aware that when I was deciding on a blog to write, I had a list of possible issues I wanted tow write about. Weight and obesity issues aren't really high on my writing priority list. So, though I mention weight, it isn't really a focus of this blog. Jypsy, about PEI, I'm lecturing just outside Summerside on Wednesday. I don't have the exact topic or place anywhere handy as I write this. email me if you want exact information.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...


For discussions on the topic of obesity discrimination and the politics/psychology of obesity as a disability, you might want to check out the following blogs:

Not sure if they'll have what you're looking for, but they'd probably be good places to start.


jypsy said...

I emailed you Sunday morning but never heard from you, that's why I commented here. I'll try again but you could email me the details at jypsy AT I'm very interested.