Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Straw

It's been a rough day.

We went out with Ruby, wanting her to see some of the Christmas displays. In particular we wanted to show her the giant reindeer that have overtaken the Eaton Center downtown. These may comprise the most beautiful holiday decorations that I have ever seen. I was awestruck when I first saw them. Ruby was prepped to go and see them and we, excitedly, took the subway down to the mall.

We waited for the second train so that we could get into the first car so that Ruby could look out the window and watch us travel through the tunnels. I'm nearly 60 and I love watching too, so just imagine what it would be like for a little girl unused to subway travel. She was thrilled. Joe and I had a checklist of things to do and things for her to experience, the subway was first on the list and then we began.

But my. Oh my.

It was tough. It seems that the 'spirit of the season' evaporated overnight. The mall was busy to the point of manic. We had difficult accessing ramps, people didn't want to wait for me to use them. Joe had to stop the flow so that I could get from level to level. I could see Joe tensing up. It's difficult to have to ask people to allow what they should offer. But he did it keeping good spirits.

I kept trying not to notice people's annoyance at my passageway through a crowded marketplace. I could see the effect on Ruby, too, and it made me angry. I don't want my frustrations visited on her. I don't want her to ever have to think 'oh, if Dave just wasn't in a wheelchair.' And I'm afraid I lost it. We had waited for the elevator. The Center doesn't have enough of them, and it always surprises me that people, who have the option of the escalators just off to the side, line up for the elevators. I know that they have glass walls and the view is wonderful. But really.

We'd waited for several elevators and Ruby was getting tired. Finally, the elevator was clear and Joe and Ruby hopped on. A large family arrived and started pouring on before I could get on. I actually said, 'Hold on I was waiting here long time, my family is on ... can you let me get on.' They didn't. They got on and looked at me with defiance. Joe and Ruby had to step off. As the door closed, I said, with some venom, 'That was really, rude and really, really, mean.' Ruby stood there trying not to cry. We had to explain to her, because children take on themselves what they don't deserve, that the reason we didn't get on was because they jumped on ahead of me. She actually thought it was because she took up too much space.

My heart broke as we comforted her. By the time the next elevator came, we got on easily. It turned out a fellow had seen what happened and he stood guard ensuring we could get on. We thanked him, he spoke to us with an accent so heavy it was hard to understand, but his eyes ... his eyes we all understood. They were almost militantly kind.

Later when Ruby talked about the elevator we reminded her of the man who held people back so we could get on. That's what we want her to remember. Not my anger. Not the reason for my anger. She's five. She's our guest. She's here to have a good time.

But I was exhausted by the time I got home.

I realized it took energy for me to be constantly patient. But that burden was just too much when barriers, physical and attitudinal, were placed on her tiny shoulders. That extra weight caused a small break in my heart.

I wonder, from other, is that true for you too ... it's easier to bear these things when it's just you - but when it affects those you love, it's tougher still. I'm guessing that's a fairly universal reaction. But I'd love to hear ...


Shan said...

That happens to me with my kids or my sister. Go ahead, push me around. But mess with my daughters or my sister and I will CUT YOU.

The Christmas spirit lasts until closing time December 24. We went to the 'city' today and went to a mall. It was so awful and depressing. All eye contact is pretty much gone. Everybody is frowning and snapping at their kids. The half-price "Christmas decor" tables look sad and dishevelled, all the hats on the ornamental Santas are crooked, the angels' wings are bent, there's glitter falling all over the place. By the time we got home I wanted to take the tree down and throw all the cookies away.

Next year I am staying home from Boxing Day to New Year's Day.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so much easier for people to be lazy, rude, or indifferent than polite, courteous,and kind?

There's really no excuse for this kind of behaviour. I rode up an escalator at Future Shop the other day (couldn't find the elevator) with 5 girls in tow. They are 8 months, nearly 3, 4, 8, & 10. The oldest has a visible developmental disability. About half way up the 2 year old stepped back and fell. I caught her by the sweater upside down and with the baby in my other arm I just held on for dear life. She was screaming, I was screaming, the 8 year old was one even looked up. I kid you NOT. Not even a glance as we fell in a pile at the top and just lay there shaking and crying. Not ONE person, staff or customer in the busy store gave us a second look. When I finally got us up and moving the 10 year old was having a post-traumatic melt down in her own way. She was trying to climb into one of the dryer's on display. I was trying to help her make a different coping choice. She cannot be pushed, pulled, or bullied in these situations.She must be comforted and ever so gently guided. This people noticed and stared at. Some made smartass comments. One lady, obviously thinking I was a crap parent, and she the grandmotherly expert, told my girl off quite meanly...thanks you twit.

She melted down completely and I had to drag my kicking, punching, seriously distressed daughter, along with 4 other distressed kids to the elevator and back to the car.

And not one person, not one, offered us a word of kindness or comfort.

Anonymous said...

You're asking a mother bear what happens when someone messes with her cubs??? Stand back . . .

Just Jess for now said...

You know? Sometimes I think my disability being blindness is a blessing...I don't have to see people looking at me strangely or in annoyance. Then again, I can feel it and sometimes I wish I could see it so that I could actually say something.
I'm so, so sorry you guys have had such horrible experiences. People are so rude. My reaction is the same when people's ignorance and rudeness impacts others around me. So, no, you're not alone in that reaction.

Andrea S. said...

Some years ago, I was on crutches for some weeks after breaking my ankle. I had finished grocery shopping and needed to take an elevator down to the subway. There was a huge crowd of people (mostly teens) waiting for the elevator even though the escalator was only a few steps away (like you, I don't understand why people wait for an elevator when the escalators are right there, unless they're phobic or something and I have a hard time believing that ALL the people waiting there had a phobia about riding escalators). I was moving more slowly than usual and was very tired after doing so much standing up and walking and using my bad foot along with the crutches. I had pushed myself near the limits of what my body could handle at this stage in the recovery of my foot.

But when the elevator came, no one paid me any mind, people just swarmed onto the elevator so quickly that I had no chance to even reach the doors. I did shout at the people on the elevator about their rudeness, but no one had the decency to get off or apologize, and no one in the crowd seemed to even pay attention.

The elevator came again, and still no one pay me any mind. I only got on at all because I basically rushed for the door. I hated needing to rush because it did NOT feel safe trying to push myself while my balance was still so precarious. And it also meant putting more stress on my bad foot than was good for it at that stage of healing.

I was furious ... sometimes I still wish I could go back in time, round up all those kids along with the parents who had obviously failed to teach any manners, and deliver them a really blistering lecture about their lousy behavior.

Jan said...

Dave I am so sorry to hear of the bad time you had. You are right we can ignore the hassles and rudness of others when it is directed only to us but when it affects people we love we all tend to react more. I went shopping this boxing day for the first time in about 6 years and it will be at least that long until I do it again. It seems that all the rude thoughtless people shop after the holidays. Stores promote the greed and pushyness by limited sales and low low prices on a few items. People react by rudeness and being inconsiderate and stores reward the behaviour. Unfortunately those of us who are not as quick, able or rude get the brunt of the behaviour. It would be interesting to see what would happen if merchants rewarded kindness and consideration with as much effort.

Tamara said...

I wonder how many of the world's problems could be resolved with just good manners? I just don't understand why some people behave as if they believe they are just more important than the rest of us.

But then, I realize my manners could use some tweaking when I read Jess and Glacier's comment.

Jess and Glacier - I do have to admit to watching people who are blind walking down the street. I'm just fascinated by the ability to navigate city streets without being able to see. My middle son has congenital glaucoma, so I'm always concerned about how he will handle losing his vision if that happens - and watching someone do those every day things without being able to see just gives me hope.

But, I will stop doing that so my stares aren't misinterpreted. I know how stares feel, and I don't know why I didn't think about how I might be making someone feel in that situation. Thanks for posting that -

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you and your family had such a hard time because people couldn't act like decent human beings.

I've had similar experiences in which things that don't usually affect me (mostly because I'm too tired of fighting to deal with them) end up affecting my friends and family when I go out with them. I spend a lot of time out on my own so when I'm with someone all the normal issues seem so much more exasperating than usual. I have a friend with social anxiety issues and we went out (a very rare occasion as she dislikes big groups or places where she might end up on 'display') and about two seconds after entering the store, she looked at me and was like 'everyone's staring at us'. And they were. And she was very uncomfortable and stressed out and we ended up leaving the place far earlier than we wanted because people couldn't mind their own business.

I often end up apologizing for things when I'm with friends, like how long everything takes because accessible parking will be *here* while the actual accessible entry will be *way over there*. And then that's not mentioning how rude people are, especially with elevators. I've had people try and beat me to the elevators and then close the doors before I can even get on or ask them to hold the door.

People are often very rude and it's distressing when you realize how much rudeness to you affects the people who are with you. And I hate the whole 'holiday spirit' thing because people take it to mean that the 'holiday spirit' is only applicable from Dec 1 to the 24th. Why we can only be decent human beings once a year I don't know.

Lene Andersen said...

I hate the Eaton Centre's elevators. Or rather lack of elevators. And I loathe the attitude of the able-bodied shoppers - the escalator is mere steps away, but you must crowd into the one elevator that is clearly marked with a wheelchair. And then they don't even look abashed when the door opens on that 2nd level and they all see me waiting there, unable to get on.

I actually thought about popping down there this week to check out a few sales. And then I remembered the elevators and decided against it. Just as I decided against going in the 3 weeks before Christmas for the exact same reason.

Maybe we should get together and write a letter to the management...

MsK said...

i have a horrible time out in public. i'm scared out of my wits in elevators.

i'm terrified of falling on the escalator and getting eaten at the bottom/top, and stepping on is stressful as well.

and my knee wont take the stairs. so...we find one-story malls, or TheEngineer holds my hand tightly on the elevator.

i may look able-bodied (if overweight) from the outside, but i'm not. i am, however, polite and know how to wait in line.

Flemisa said...

Fully agree that things are felt more fully when others are around. You don't want them to feel the negative effect of being with you. The reality it that rudeness, thoughtlessness, and ignorance happens far too often. We have to look for and encourage the opposite and I am glad that there was someone who showed what it could -- and should -- be like.

Helping her learn to focus on the positive and the good will help Ruby so very much in the future.

Congrats for not fully expressing yourself in public!

And thanks for the post so I can examine my actions in a similar situtation.

(And I agree with Shan about when the Christmas spirit ends. Any shopping I do will be online until next week.)

wheeliecrone said...

Oh, yes indeed. That's my answer.
If I am alone, then whether I can get into a lift and whether I make some snide comment - that's all up to me and my energy level at the time. But if someone is with me, that is a different matter.
I don't have any little people in my family at the moment. But you are right, Dave - if anything untoward occurs, very young people almost invariably assume that it is their fault. Littlies do not understand that supposed adults can behave in amazingly rude and nasty ways. This is heartbreaking to watch, particularly if you love that little person.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Those people were not only unspeakably rude but they made Ruby feel bad - enough to bring out all your protective instincts! She will remember the man who held the way open - she already knows that everyone matters and is entitled to courtesy and kindness.

To the anonymous Mom with 5 girls - how awful! You would think that at least one person could have asked if they could help! Thank goodness you were all safe physically, though the incident took its toll on your older daughter unfortunately. What kind of society are we living in???


Anonymous said...

Years ago I had my infant in my arms on a crowded escalator.

Someone shoved me from behind. I was scared to death that she would go over the edge and I went down onto my knees cradling the baby.

At the top, half a dozen stepped over us until I crawled to the side, but no one offered to help.


Glee said...

this is a bit after the post but to tell the truth I had to leave my comment for a bit.

This is the first post of yours that completely stopped up my throat and made me cry. Why? that's why had to have time and I'm still not sure. Some suggestions are: I was so angry that you had to suppress your rage (but you needed to), I despair that human beings can ever be decent or nice, I was angry that Ruby was upset and confused, angry that you were upset and humiliated by these people....

If I was out with adults I would say what I felt to say and I would not feel the need to consider my company. Otherwise how the hell is ANYONE really gonna understand this ablist selfish behaviour? It's stupid to protect other adults and sometimes children from the obviousness of the discrimination. I do however, understand the need to put big cushions around situations sometimes.

I was out with my sister-in-law years ago and her three kids under 10. We went to the Art Gallery for kids activities and the "Lady" did her speech to the crowd and then said "everyone follow me" and she proceeded up the stairs. I was not right close to my family nor were they obviously associated with me. I just shouted straight away "AND WHAT ABOUT ME?" until I was heard. The Ladies fussed and panicked and asked other people "Where is her Carer?" I explained I was with my family and no I didn't want them "to find me something else to do". They panicked some more and then eventually found out how to get wheelchair access. I did go crook, but quietly, except for the first shouting which was absolutely necessary cos of the noise of the kids. And I wasn't going to get left behind with my family trying to fix it.

I don't know how it affected the kids. It wasn't a consideration for me. I believe it would have spoilt it more if we had been left behind. I will never go meekly.

I know my sister-in-law thought it was fantastic and it was she who told me later, laughing, about the "where's her Carer?" comment. She said she didn't tell me at the time cos she knew it would make me madder.

Everyone survived quite ok and perhaps the damn "Ladies" of the Art Gallery bloodywell learnt something!! My family would have learned something too.

The main reason for the stopped up rage and tears was utter frustration about the people of this world. Phew. Hugs all...

Andrea S. said...

Thanks, Glee, for making your comment, even if late.

"Where's her carer??" !!! I can't understand why some people seem to think that every wheelchair user must surely have a carer attached to them!!

I don't normally face this myself, though some hearing people do seem to have the silly idea that I ought to have a sign language interpreter attached to my hip everywhere I go, just so they shouldn't have to take 30 extra seconds to write down their question instead of speaking it. Then they go and waste their time and mine by simply repeating over and over the question I have already determined (by the third repeat!) that I'm just not going to be able to lipread, which is why I keep asking them to just write it down ...

I wanted to write this comment in part to say, Good for you! For speaking out when that tour guide overlooked you (though I don't understand how a person can notice a person in a wheelchair and not stop to realize that they cannot come up stairs with them! ... I've run into the exact thing myself when out and about with a friend of mine who rides a wheelchair and still can't understand it!)

And also in part so you would know that someone did see your comment even this late!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Glee, I too thank you for your comment. It gave me much to think about. I don't know if suppressing my response was actually the right thing to do - I simply wanted us to all have fun, but I'm afraid that I might have modelled precisely the behaviour I don't want to see in Ruby, or anyone. A nearly passive acceptance of rude behaviour. I did tell them that they were rude but that seems somehow inadequate. Rube referred to the incident a number of times afterward. She was very upset by it. Maybe my being more assertive would have finished it more in her mind. But it's all guessing now. Thanks for adding to the discussion and making me think more deeply about the situation.