I was shouted at. Loudly. For a very long time. We were coming along Dundas Street from the AGO and crossing University Avenue. The light turned green and as we headed for the median, I noticed that it was a very poor curb cut. There were several inches between the tarmac and the ramp. My power chair does not do well with those kinds of cuts and I avoid them if I can. I decided that I'd zip around the median and thereby avoid the badly cut curb.
Two women were walking and talking together, I said, 'Excuse me.' They did not hear me. I said, 'Excuse me!' They did not hear me. We were almost at the median so I zipped up and cut in front of them to get around them. I must have cut it a bit close. Though I didn't hit them, I think I frightened them. One of them yelled out at me. Loud enough for Tessa and Joe to hear the commotion. 'You people take up the entire side walk. Like it's your right or something!!' Her friend must have shushed her because she continued, 'I don't care,' she said speaking to her friend, 'it's true they take up way to much space.'
I was mortified and when I got to the other side, with them and their anger behind me, I said to Joe and Tessa, 'Let's go.' They had stopped to wait for me, I didn't want a confrontation, I just wanted to get going. So we went on, Tessa asking me why I was being yelled at. Tessa drives a scooter and is more stable on curb cuts like that one but even so she noted how tall the lip on that curb was.
At first I felt badly. Like I had done something wrong. But then, as I calmed down from being embarrassed, my feelings began to change. Why are people who walk so oblivious to their surroundings? Anyone who had any experience with wheelchairs would notice that the curb was dangerous and difficult. But when you step over things, you seem to also be willing to step over people, over issues, over accessibility. If they can get around, everyone of importance can get around.
Now I wish I'd stopped and said something. Now I wish I'd faced that anger with reason. Not that it would have made a difference but I'd feel differently and maybe that's difference enough. People don't often 'out' with their prejudice - as soon as I stopped being a random wheelchair user and became 'you people' I knew I had tapped into a deeply held prejudice. As soon as I became an anonymous member of a devalued group, I became a target for pent up anger. As soon as I became a non-person, it became OK to harangue me on the street.
One of the difficulties in writing this blog is that those who choose to come here will get it. I think it's called, 'preaching to the choir'. I'd love to write something that she might read.
I wonder if 'Asswipe Digest' is taking submissions.