Friday, April 22, 2011


I was horribly rude today.

Without even knowing it.

I arrived at work just a little after 8:30 and as I got my chair off the bus and into the lobby, the fellow I was meeting was also arriving. I had just hit the 'door open' button and was watching it swing slowly open. He, a genuinely nice guy, asked, 'Would you like some help onto the elevator?' I said, 'No, no, that's all right.' He looked a little surprised but nodded and said, 'Well, then, I'll see you upstairs.'

Door open, I rolled in and got on the elevator. Just as the door was closing I heard what he had actually said to me out there in the lobby. I became convinced that I had misheard him. He had said, 'Would you like some company on the elevator?' And that friendly gesture was turned down.

What had happened, was that after years in the wheelchair and saying, 'No, no, thanks,' to hundreds of offers to help, my ears were hearing what they expected him to say, not what he had actually said.


I don't want this to happen to me. I don't want what usually happens to block out what actually happens. I don't want to start seeing future interactions through the expectations built from past interchanges. I don't want to be the guy who begins to misunderstand his life because he's living one life based on assumption and expectation rather than the other life - the real one happening around him. I don't want to expect prejudice and then find it. I don't want to expect diminishment and then experience it. NO.

I don't want to become that.

I rolled off the elevator mortified. Here a nice guy had offered to share a ride on the elevator with me. Believe me, given the speed of the elevator, that's a generous, generous offer. So I got into my office and when he came in I said to him, 'What did you say to me downstairs about the elevator?' He looked curiously at me and said, 'I asked if you wanted company,' and before I could say anything he said, 'and I completely understand that you may have wanted time on your own, I don't always want people around me in the morning either.' Talk about nice, he was taking me being rude and making it an OK kind of thing.

I said, 'No, I didn't hear you. I thought you'd offered help. I would have gladly shared the ride.' Then I explained to him how this came to be and apologized again to him for hearing what wasn't said rather than what was. He was good about it. He even laughed.

But, man, oh man, I've gotta be more careful.



Walrilla said...

Oh, man, that's a good one! I hate when I do stuff like that without any intention of being rude. Really glad he was so understanding.


Belinda said...

So much to ponder in this post. How much of our world is coloured by what we are expecting--so much so that we get what we expect--or we think we do!:)It's so good that your brain caught up with your ears, however belatedly! :)

Roia said...

Thank goodness for people who are willing to pay attention (even belatedly) and acknowledge their mistakes! It's the folks who never realize what they've done (or haven't done) that worry me way more.

Noisyworld said...

I think your title sums the whole thing up really lol
Not only is this a prime example of assuming the worst, it's a hole that people with hearing loss often fall into, assuming that what they expect to hear is what was said- fine until it leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding and offense (on either side) :(

Hannah Ensor said...

So true - and so easily done!