Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Cost of Silence

On our way over the the mall this morning we discussed what we needed to accomplish and what we wanted to do. We agreed that we needed to stop at a particular store - the thought gave us pause. You see I'm in the middle of a kind of dispute with the store management. They had a perfectly accessible entrance and they've changed it such that I can't get in easily. Apparently due to theft they had to install a kind of barrier that is supposedly wheelchair friendly but isn't friendly to this wheelchair user. Needless to say emails are flying fast and furious and, well, management is a bit furious themselves at my insistence that my experience in my wheelchair trying to enter their store isn't equal to their assurance that I can enter the store.


It's Saturday and I'm a little tired. I promised Joe that I'd try again to get in the entrance and if it didn't work I was just going to let it go. I don't care today. I'm just out having fun. I don't care. Really. Don't. Care.

I couldn't get in.

I let it go.

I'll deal with it next week.

Then we went to the opera and I parked beside Joe's seat. He was next to a woman who was a chatterbox, to him and icily cold to me. Cool, Cold. I don't care. I just let Joe chat with her and people watched as people came in to take their seats. During intermission, she and Joe left. She to use the washroom, I know this because she liked to keep Joe up to date on pretty much everything she was thinking. She wasn't stream of consciousness, she was river of irrelevancies. I asked Joe to get me a green tea if the line up wasn't too long. Joe said that he would if he could. When she came back from the washroom she marched up to me. I thought I was going to get a blow by blow of wiping ... but instead, speaking to me like a four year old, she told me that the Tim's line up was very long and I shouldn't have asked 'my friend' to get me a tea. I was 'typically selfish' she said.

'Typically selfish!' said in a voice used by a Grandmother to the child that she buys socks for Christmas.

I refused to talk to her about it. I don't need to justify my relationship with Joe and how we are with each other. It's not her business. So, I pointedly watched the screen and just as pointedly did not respond to her. She turned away from me in a huff.

I let it go.

I don't care.

I. Really. Don't. Care. I'm. Just. Being. Out.

So, at the end of the day. I did what I pledged. I just kept my mouth shut. I didn't advocate. I didn't make complaint. I didn't stand up for myself. I didn't make an issue of anything. I just let it all wash over me.

And the result?

I'm a mess.

Turns out that not speaking up takes way more energy that speaking out. At least for me. That's an experiment that I'm just not going to try again. I'm not going to force myself to take on every battle, but I'm never going out with the intent of not doing battle. Cause the battle that didn't happen out there, certainly happen inside.

Who knew?

Well, I do now.


Kristin said...

When I keep things inside, I tend to stew and fret over them and hash them over in mu brain a million times over. Like you said, silence has a high cost.

coffeetalk said...

I believe that unspoken words can SOMETIMES be a choking hazard. The trick is to figure out when that is true. Good luck.

Maggie said...


I can usually swallow something without choking, if I can plan ahead. And if it's only the one thing.

But I know better than to treat myself to a whole day of not speaking up for myself. Makes me feel like a doormat -- smashed flat and full of footprints.

I wish I knew the perfect retort to "typically selfish," though -- sheesh!

Anonymous said...

My immediate thought after reading your blog today was....what a great day!You learned something very important about yourself today!
That was a good day in my books!

Love Linda ( LinMac)

Kate said...

This rang so many bells with me. If I don't say it out-loud 2 things happen: 1, I rehearse what I should have said over and over again in my head. 2, I internalise something of what was said to me - it's like if I don't hear myself challenge it I start thinking that it might be true.

Weird that stand up for yourself is so much less tiring than not!

Andrea S. said...

I wish I could give that woman a lecture. "Typically selfish"? She clearly knows nothing about you at all except for her own preconceived notions.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

My first response to this post - you have the worst luck running into people who are presumptuous and rude! Where does this woman get off thinking she can talk to you (or anyone for that matter) that way?

Keeping things inside is generally difficult - and that woman needs a severe talking to!


cmbg said...

Here is a song for you: "Can't Keep It In," by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). Time to dance now. :)

Myrrien said...

Well Dave you are making others change. I'm very shy by nature and don't do conflict in any way.

Yesterday I took my family to pizzahut and noticed that one of the counters that keep the pizzas warm had been moved and was partially blocking the disabled toilet. My son could use it but there was no way a wheelchair user could.

I felt really uncomfortable but I raised it with one of the staff and it was moved. It was only later I realised that there was probably little chance of a wheelchair user getting into the shop anyway given the way the tables are laidout.

Anyway I'll try and go on being a bit more vocal. I was still shaking a while later though.

Rachel said...

I need to remember this. Thank you, Dave. My track record of speaking up is pretty bad, and when I do, half the time it's fairly ineffective, which leaves me thinking that it must be me being oversensitive again, or something like that.

This is something I've noticed in myself just in the past few years. And I've only just barely started working on it. I need to get off my duff and work on it more.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth did she feel the need to tell you anything for the love of pete!!!! I wish people would mind their own business.

PS as I was waiting in line for my coffee this morning service dog in tow. I told my friend all about your starbucks experience. Why because the person working at the Panera, offered me help without my needing to ask. Which jogged my memory. It game me a chance to have the manager and workers in this store here something important and , for me to thank them for the great work they do!!!
Felt Great!

moplans said...

I find a 'teacher look' goes quite a long way.
gets your message across without as much effort as finding words to engage with idiots
sorry you had to deal with these losers

Noisyworld said...

I know entirely what you mean about silence not being silent; it really is loud going around-and-around in your brain, perhaps even louder than taking somebody to task for their behaviour.
I hope that you can find the happy medium where each situation allows you to do what is right for: you, the situation and whatever else you have planned:)
I haven't worked out how to do all this myself so this is a very interesting post, as normal :)

Anonymous said...

I feel that i am alot like Kristin when people say degrading things to me i just sit there all day and think about what was said. I end up being a total mess. I have been following your blog the past few days and I like how you handle yourself in situations, it teachs me that i need to think about what i am doing and saying to others around me.
Thanks for the posts! Keep them coming!CC

Anonymous said...

This is probably able-bodied privilege (temporarily-able-bodied privilege) speaking, but I am *boggled* that somebody would think that was a reasonable thing to say to a stranger. Boggled.

I dislike feeling at a loss for a reply, so when I experience something like this I usually spend some time figuring out how I might respond the next time. Now that I've had a chance to get past the initial "[bleep] you!" reaction, let me think...

In a case like this, I think I'd lean towards a frosty but utterly correct, Miss Manners- and Emily Post-approved statement like "What an extraordinary thing to say to a stranger. That is completely inappropriate."

And then if I were really annoyed and my internal self-censor weren't functioning fully, I might add "Did your mother teach you manners? Because she must be deeply ashamed of how rude and insensitive you are being."

tlee29 said...

I could not bite my tongue all day seeing and hearing stupidity or just plain ignorance,but rather I release my feelings by making these types of people feel foolish or uneducated by using wit, leaving THEM with something to think about all day. I wish not to argue or debate but just rather lay it out there like it is. It saddens me to know people can still wake up and look at themselves in the mirror after treating fellow humans in that manner. Hopefully one day you will be able to purchase filters for the mouthes of these people!

Joyfulgirl said...

Sorry you had such bad experiences.

Brian Bickel said...

I have also done that experiment of keeping my mouth shut very often and I always get the same result by ending up more frustrated than I started out being. The only way we are going to be able to eduacate people on the value of every person, no matter any disability, is to speak up and show them that they are no different than anyone.