Friday, January 20, 2012

My Voice, Please, Leave Me My Voice

Today I went shopping at lunch time, just after having a hair cut, and we were on our way home. We needed a few ingredients to make a wonderfully spicy Mexican soup. The store we typically shop at has a narrow entrance that sometimes becomes blocked by shoppers getting things from the deli counter. Even those who are 'two footers' have to wait some times. For us 'four wheelers' it's a little more common event. I don't mind. I'm never really in that much of a rush when I'm shopping.

Lunchtime was crazy busy and an older fellow was picking out something from the deli and he's left his cart right in the way. A couple of other shoppers moved his cart slightly so they could slip by. He didn't notice. I parked off to the side content to wait for him to finish. I really wasn't in a rush. He didn't notice me waiting and I didn't attempt to call myself to his attention. He'd be done soon enough.

A woman came by, clearly from the office tower, and was offended on my behalf. She saw me waiting there and caught my eye as she went past. I saw her reach out to touch the fellow to ask him to move. I said to her, not him, 'No, it's OK, I don't mind waiting.' She said, to me not him, 'He has no right to block the aisle so you can't pass.' I said, to him not her, as he was now aware of the kerfuffle, 'Finish up your shopping, I'll wait.' She said to him, not me, because clearly I didn't understand that my rights were being denied, 'You shouldn't block the aisle so this man can't get in in his wheelchair.' I said to both of them, 'It's OK.'

He looked embarrassed and apologized and struggled to move the cart. He was flustered so it took him longer than it should have and he nearly toppled it over and almost ran into someone. She looked triumphant that she'd righted a wrong, fought the valiant fight, brought the inconsiderate to their knees. I was mortified.

I was also angry.

From the moment I spoke to her, I made it clear that I could speak up and protest. In fact, I was PROTESTING, her interference so I could have easily spoken up and asked him to move if I had indeed needed to get in quickly. She didn't notice that I could say 'no' because she couldn't hear me say 'no' to her. How odd.

My voice was stolen and replaced by one that wasn't mine.

I've done that to others.

Never again.


Anonymous said...

I would love to "never again" speak on behalf of others.
But I dont think that I am already wise enough or emotional and thougthfull enough to do so. To notice when I do so.

But I will think of this post more often and try...


Glee said...

Well it is not right Dave and when you do this waiting patiently then you disadvantage those of us who may be in a hurry. I see your actions as minimising the needs of people in wheelchairs. If we continue to wait then if we don't want to wait we will cop it.

Yes she interfered which was not right. Other times people ignore our plight and we grumble about that. But ever patient, passive crips do us all a damage.

Janet said...

Glee do you think your comment is fair? Does Dave have to live every moment of his day thinking his actions are representitive of all of us with disabilities? He wasn't in a rush, he has the right to wait quietly. I imagine that when he is in a rush, he would speak up. He's allowed to have individual needs at various moments of his life. One of the unfair expectations placed on us, is that we are all ambassadors for the entire community. You even suggest that Dave somehow damaged you by not having a busy day and demanding immediate access. Is that a fair thing to say to someone who judging by his blog posts speaks up more often than not. Is that a fair thing to say to anyone with a disability? I live in San Francisco and I don't think Dave letting someone shop at a deli counter is going to make any difference in my day. His writing about it will, because it makes me think about the fact that I have a right to a fully experienced life. I rush when I need to rush, I wait when I'm not in a hurry, I shouldn't be forced by some passerby into a conflict that doesn't exist nor should I be force to speak up constantly and barge in every time becasue I'm carrying the responsibility of every single disabled person on the planet on my shoulders.

Susan said...

Good point.

When we speak up for others - and sometimes we HAVE to - it should always be about them, and their needs, desires, hopes, wants, not about our own need to be the "hero" of the day. We might want to "help" people but that kind of prideful interference hurts people.

You've made that point many times on this blog Dave. The other day was Martin Luther King Day. I read a quote of his that I've never seen before. "Everyone can be great, because everyone can be a servant." I've been chewing on it ever since. That lady probably wanted to think that she was helping you, but she was really serving herself... And that doesn't help anyone - not even herself.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Glee, I think that every moment has it's right response. I also think that I need a reciprocal relationship with the world, if I want patience, I need to show patience. If I want kindness, I need to show kindness. I don't want anger and protest to be my 'default' position. What bothered me more than her interference was that she didn't LISTEN to what I said to her, didn't let me define the situation. You and I usually agree on situations, I guess this disagreement was inevitable. Thanks for your comment and your disagreement, it made me rethink. And Janet,thanks for not making me responsible for you day down there in San Fran! How do you manage those hills on wheels?

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

When I was an MA student doing a research paper on life writing two of the things that emerged from the literature I was reviewing were: 1) the missing voice, that is, in the literature about people with disabilities there was little actually written by people with disabilities and 2) ways that we silence the voices of people with disabilities.

I guess it doesn't just happen in the literature - somehow this is not surprising. I think sometimes people are so focused on their "mission" that they don't listen to the very person they should be listening to.

I understand Glee's comment but cannot agree with it. As you have mentioned before, you are Dave first and foremost. You are not always and everywhere a representative for people with disabilities.

I like your idea that we have to be what we want to see in the world.


Glee said...

true :)

Anonymous said...

The idea that you need to "be" what you want to encounter in the world is a philosophy that Mahatma Ghandi (and now his grandson, Arun Ghandi) promoted.

Colleen, you see the same silencing of the voices of people with disabilities. Many news media stories about people with disabilities have extensive quotes from almost everyone EXCEPT the actual person with disabilities themself. Or if they do have a quote, it is usually something very short and superficial which suggests the reporter didn't spend a lot of time doing a real interview with them. If I were the editor for these stories, I would send the reporter back to the disabled person to do a far mroe extensive interview and then re-do the entire story almost from scratch: if the story is supposed to focus on the person with disabilities then a good 50 to 65% of the quotes should be from that person, then you could still have a few quotes from a few more people who know them to supplement that. Not the other way around.

Moose said...

I used to have a friend that would constantly do things "for me" despite my asking her not to.

One day, at an event, there was a minor issue and I felt it wasn't a problem. She was furious about it and felt the issue had to be addressed - the management of the establishment had to be informed. I told her I was fine and not bothered with the situation, and she should just calm down.

The next thing I know she stalked off to find a manager and, in front of me, ranted and railed about the issue. After she finally shut up, I told the manager it wasn't a problem, thanked him for his time, and he left.

My friend then (rather imperiously) told me it was her DUTY to inform the management, because they might treat "other people like you" the same way.

I don't spend time with this person in public anymore.

I don't need someone to tell me what is and isn't important. I don't need protection, I don't need someone to speak up for me, and I don't need "friends" who are more involved with their own bigoted beliefs than listening to what I have to say.

Anonymous said...

In addition to stealing and replacing your voice, she humiliated the older fellow.
‘He has no right to block the aisle’ she said. Sounds like she’s also implying he has no right to go shopping if he takes longer and takes up more space.
That ain’t the world I want to live in.
Sounds like she took both people’s dignity with her indignant attitude.