Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jewels In Crowns

He was waving at me frantically from the car window. I was pushing myself through the two double doors and as such my hands were quite busy. His smile was unnaturally large and his waving enthusiastic. Finally through, I waved to him. He seemed to sag in gratitude at my notice.


You see, he's not a friendly guy. Most days, pretty much all days until now, he ignores both Joe and I, acknowledging us only grudgingly when forced to respond us for some reason. He's got a lovely dog, who likes both Joe and I and who insists on pulling against a very tight lead to come and get a pat from each of us. His master, the man who today grinned at me maniacally, stands aside, aloof and annoyed at his dogs taste in people. So today was way, way out of character.

Then, as I thought about it, I realized that the car was full of other people and they were all looking over at me and all noticed my shy but friendly wave to their friend in the car. They glanced at him with approval. I think, and this may be overly suspicious, that I had been used as a means of showing others what a kind and good man he was - waving to the disabled and all.

Is that possible?

Do people still get jewels in their social crown by demonstrating a kindness or a friendliness towards those of us with disabilities?

Do people pull themselves up in the estimation of others by portraying themselves as understanding that the 'D' in Diversity is for 'Disability'?

Do people really think that pretending to be someone friendly, rather than being someone friendly, will ever work in the long run?

I don't know. But somehow, I kind of felt dirty. A little bit used. A little bit exploited. I inwardly cursed my natural inclination to return wave for wave and hello for hello. I wish I could have pointed at myself with a question on my face like a non-verbal way of saying, 'Are YOU waving at ME?'

But maybe not. Maybe I'm just over thinking a moment. Maybe I'm being paranoid.

But then, there is the horrible possibility that I'm not.

What do you think?


Janelle said...

I think you gave it altogether too much thought. These things will eat at you and your time is better spent focusing on things that matter. I'm sorry you had to doubt whether he was being neighbourly or had other motives. Maybe he wasn't waving at you for the right reasons, but I can think of a bunch of people (including the majority of us here) who would be thrilled to wave at you. I'd suggest that you not wave next time, but you don't seem mean-spirited to me. It would also be really bad advice based on the fact that maybe, just maybe, he was simply waving to acknowledge knowing you. Worst case scenario, you wasted your wave on a loser, but wasting your time on it would be a far greater loss. You do amazing things with your time. I'll also let you use my strategy for the future, if you'd like. I try to get the first wave out there and with flourish. I generally like people, so I'm not bothered that I might waste a wave on someone who doesn't care for me. Good luck with future waving.

Anonymous said...


I like your answer to Daves post today very much. And I do agree. Sometimes I am shying away from greeting people who seem openly disabled just because they may take it wrong or the others around me think I just do it because they are disabled.
But I try to be and I am friendly to others as much as possible. My Das sometimes tells me I am to friendly...

You wrote in one of your comments that you have a blog too. Would it be possible for me to read? Would you give me the link?

Greetings Julia (from Germany)

Tamara said...

Maybe ... or maybe he was being kidnapped and was waving frantically because he was frantic - and hoped you would realize that he never waves and know something was wrong and call for help!!!!

Just kidding - but you never know! (And I've been reading the Bourne books, so my imagination is a bit directed to kidnappings and such.)

But, it's not enough information for me to compute. Could certainly feel differently if I were there.

Seriously, I do want to say that being painfully shy - or having social anxiety - makes one appear to be unfriendly. My oldest son's actions are often misinterpreted.

I realize that being in the situation is different than reading about it - but just thought it was something you might consider. He may be more lonely and anxious than unfriendly and annoyed at his dog's taste in people ...

krlr said...

My 2 cents as the socially reserved (that's putting it mildly) neighbor with large boisterous dogs? I will happily wave if my head isn't a million miles away (i.e. if I actually SEE you), and/or if it's not the end of the day and I'm EXHAUSTED, & if my dog isn't with me, with his muddy paws and slobber and with the echo of a million dear abby letters complaining about neighbors letting their dogs jump on people. If I'm w/dog, & thinking about the kids, & work, & which one of the thousand domestic things I should get done, and wondering WHY I haven't trained my dog yet not to molest the neighbors, I might just nod, distractedly. ---signed, your slightly standoffish neighbor.

Ruti said...

This thread is like what Amanda said.

This may not be an instance of that but I think the phenomenon is still unfortunately real.

And explaining it away might be bad. But the neighbor might not have been doing that.

I don't have any way of knowing since there's all kinds of context that you have to know the people involved to understand. But the possibility that he did something bad is real and we shouldn't ignore it.

Amy said...

I think the next time you see this fellow with his dog, you should take advantage of the familiarity his wave implied, and push him to engage in conversation. Act as though his wave meant that he wanted to get to know you better - his reaction will help you discover what he REALLY meant. My guess is he'll be very uncomfortable...

Kristine said...

Is that really what happened? Don't know. Is it possible? Definitely. Do people still get social jewels for being nice to us? Absolutely.

There used to be this guy I went to church with who would show up on my doorstep with cookies or something whenever he had a girl he was trying to impress. He actually seemed to be making "do something nice for the girl in a wheelchair" into a date activity! I was never invited to the social gatherings and get-togethers he was always organizing. I was just a prop for his nice guy act.

That's just one example....

leighbe72 said...

Unfortunately, I know the phenomenon still exists. I work with have am friends with people who have both physical and developmental disabilities. Many, many times when I am out in the community, people will say "oh, what a special person you are to do that work" and thinks like that. It's embarrassing to me because that is not why I do it, but I do know that it still occurs. Whether your neighbor is "that" guy, I don't know. In the end, does it really matter? I say what goes around comes around, always....

CL said...

Sadly, I think your interpretation is correct. The way that he was waving (making a show for the others), and how it seemed important to him that you acknowledged him, and the fact that he's not nice to you normally, all make me think he was waving at you as a performance for the others.

I can relate to him on some level, because when I'm with with one person, and someone else I know walks by, I often wave to the second person. If the other person responds, on some level I feel proud that I just looked like someone who has friends. If the other person doesn't see me, and I'm there waving in front of my friend, I feel embarrassed.

I imagine this guy was doing something like that -- waving for show, knowing his friends were watching -- with the added element of waving to a disabled person.

Baba Yaga said...

It's a possibility. Of course, he might be one of those who has mood swings or brief and mildly excruciating spells of over-compensation, or who knows what.

Whatever, I think the instinctive, friendly-Dave response is a right one. O.K., it doesn't do all that you might wish, but you know you acted decently towards another person, just because he's another person, which is always a cleanly way to handle oneself; any grubbiness in the transaction is all on his side. (Alas, one still feels the grubbiness, far more than the person to whom it really belongs. I have no idea why it works that way.)

As for him, someone once memorably said that "hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue". If he was shining up a tin halo, well, at least he knows he *ought* to behave decently towards 'others'. Perhaps the day will come when he begins to understand a little more of what that really means.

Noisyworld said...

Blimey, difficult situation, I think you handled yourself admirably Dave, as usual :)

You're probably right and he was doing the "look I'm really nice to disabled people" wave or perhaps this time it was the "look I'm open to gay people" wave.

On the other hand he may have shyness/interaction issues and the other people in the car may have been really proud to realise that he does interact with real people- the fact you're obviously disabled is, probably still, a bonus point too...unfortunately :(

Anonymous said...

I really like Amy's response or idea. My very first perception of this is he was trying to show and or prove to whoever might of been in the car with him that he indeed socializes and or has acquaintences, that he may not be miserable like they have accused him of being (if that makes sense)I do honestly think he was trying to prove something though.....

Anonymous said...

I think you might well be right, Dave.

I sometimes get shop assistants in supermarkets etc treating me like an-orphaned-puppy-dying-of-leukemia:

super pitying looks; syrupy-sweet voice and behaviour; super-polite - just because I use a wheeled walking frame.

I know it is because of the frame, because before I got a frame, shop assistants treated me normally.

It pisses me off, because it makes me feel looked down on.

I don't want someone's pity, I would rather have dignity and their respect.