Friday, February 03, 2012


Yesterday's post has me thinking about the decisions we make.

When I got on the elevator this morning, early because WheelTrans decided I needed to start my day with a tour, there were already two fellows on it. Joe stepped on and I wheeled myself backwards into the thing. I said 'Good morning,' as I always do because I believe in public civility. I glanced up and saw not one but two angry faces. Apparently, and I'm only guessing here, they were both annoyed at having to wait for me to back on to the elevator. Admittedly this takes me a little more time in my manual than in my power, but only just. Besides, they could have spent an extra few minutes just waiting for the elevator to have arrived and all would have been equal. But no. They both decided that anger and annoyance would be their response.

I wondered about the effect of that decision. Is that how they both, as individuals, want to start a fresh new day, a day that hasn't yet begun? Is anger that anyone, disabled or not, takes a second or two to get on the elevator a good start point for the real frustrations and the real problems and the real annoyances that will come up? If anger is the start point for this minuscule moment that means nothing, do they have to ramp up to shouting, then swearing, then physical violence on issues that do matter? Do they even realize, I wonder, that they had a choice in the matter? That they could have chosen a bit of patience, a bit of generosity as a response instead of anger? Or, have they made the decision that anger would be their default position and now have done with making any more decisions, weighing out differing responses for differing situations? I don't know. I just worry, in the abstract way that strangers worry about strangers, about their days.

And last weekend, when we were in the museum in Ottawa. We had all lined up to see a glassed in display of dinosaur eggs. The kids, both Ruby and Sadie, were excitedly pointing at the big eggs and talking with their mom and dad. I couldn't see as I was in my wheelchair and my view was blocked. But, though, I couldn't see, I had lots to see. I could see Ruby and Sadie and the joy on their faces. Then when they moved away, I went to push in to see the display. A woman, maybe in her early thirties, purposely stepped in front of me, and picked up her child and stood him on the rail in front of the display. She knew I was there and had been waiting when she arrived. She stood beside me after all. However, she chose to step ahead and did so because she had both greater agility and greater speed. I could not see any part of the display because she was standing in front of one side and her child in front of the other.

She made a decision. No question here. She had two options, wait her turn, or bully her way through. She chose a kind of unacknowledged form of social violence. What she did not see, because she was looking at the display was that her little boy turned and looked at me, and saw that I could not see and that he and his mother were blocking my view. He expanded his arms to make sure that I couldn't see anything and then grinned a mean, 'So There,' smile. I wonder if she knew that her decision was more than about what she did to me, it was also about what she taught her child? Children learn what they see. Children learn what they experience. He did not experience the dino eggs, he experienced something much more frightening. I worried, the abstract way that old people worry about the state of the world, about who that child would become.

A couple of days ago I was going to do a video-conference. I went somewhere I'd not been before and when we got there, Joe parked in front of the front door and unloaded the wheelchair and I had gotten out of the car and was about to sit in the chair when someone showed up to say that the video conference room had been set up at the back of the building. There was no access through the building and we'd have to load the chair and load me back in and drive around back. I was immediately annoyed. Not because I'd been bothered but I don't like it when Joe is put to extra stress and strain for no real purpose. Now he had to load it back in and then take it back out a few minutes later. I wondered why I hadn't been told about where the room was and that there was no accessibility through the front door. I made a decision. I got upset. I let the fellow know that I was annoyed and he tried to just make it all better. Joe, who was the person really put out by this, was not, in fact put out by it at all. So the apologic behaviour was aimed at me, the person who, in reality, didn't need an apology. But he offered.

I was having none of it.

Once I'm sliding down the slippery slope that exists between well mannered adult and pouty spoiled child, I can never break the fall. I slid down and was truculent at best. And there was a cost to my participation in the meeting and my sense of where I was. More than that, I knew that the fellow knew who I was and now he has a perfectly good, 'I met Dave Hingsburger and he's really not very nice,' story to tell. I'd 'Clooney'd' my day. I took whatever reputation I had and made a decision to throw muck on it. Great. Don't you just love being your own worst enemy. I worried, in the concrete way we worry about ourselves, what kind of person I really am, deep down.


We make them and they have consequences. Even the tiniest little decision - like being mad at the two seconds it takes for a wheelchair to back on to an elevator, or to step in front of someone already waiting to see a display, or to behave poorly to someone who had no control over what happened. Consequences. There are consequences.

When I was young, like every other child, I wanted the responsibility to make my own decisions. I didn't realize then that the responsibility to make a decision involves the responsibility for the consequences that arise form that responsibility. I don't know why I wasn't told that.

Or maybe that's what Grandma meant when she said, 'One day, you'll see.'


Kristin said...

Great post, Dave. Thanks for the reminder to think about what our decisions really mean.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

You ask what kind of person you are deep down - a human person - full of beauty and foibles like the rest of us.

The one that worries me the most is the one with the mother and child. That child has already learned some awful things and apparently the lessons continue. What a tragedy that this child has already learned to be selfish and disrespectful at the hands of his mother.

You talk about a slippery slope when deciding how to react to a circumstance - few people have that kind of insight I find or bother to reflect on their own behaviour. Few people take responsibility for the effect they have on others. I think that is why the world is such a mess.


Anonymous said...

This morning I was unduly annoyed by a woman at the gym who was using the "community" hair dryer for a lengthy style. Didn't she care that you are only supposed to use it for a quick dry so that it's accessible to others?
Thanks, Dave, for re-framing. Maybe she was inconsiderate. Maybe she forgot her hair dryer. Maybe she can't afford a new one. Maybe she doesn't know the "rule". Maybe that's just MY rule & my one minute limit is a factor of my shortish, thinish, quickly drying hair.
I don't want to go on & on about something so trivial, either in my head or in the comment section of this blog, but if I get stuck on "inconsiderate", I do.
When I learned how to pack for backpacking trips someone told me that "if you watch the ounces, the pounds will take care of themselves" (see Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods for a very funny scene resulting from not following that axiom)...wisdom, really, for everyday living.

joanne said...

"I'd Clooney'd my day" expresses it all very well....I'll adopt it if you don't mind...(as I sometimes fall into that pit too)...thanks for your ongoing honesty David, and your sense of humour. :)

Anonymous said...

I think you may have coined a new phrase here, Dave. I Clooney'd myself recently -- in a big way. There was no real reason for it. I saw myself doing it and did nothing to stop myself. As a result, I will live with the consequences, a stain on my normally tidy reputation.

I feel pretty miserable about the whole thing. But now, at least, there is a appropriate term for what I have done.

Thank you for sharing your stories and perspective. I never miss a post.

hj wallace

Ceeej said...

Great, enlightening post. I truly believe you help me be a better person - closer to the one I want to be and further from that mean-spirited one I often see come out.

But I have one nitpick, which I hope you will appreciate:

"Once I'm sliding down the slippery slope that exists between well mannered adult and pouty spoiled child, I can never break the fall."

Yes, we CAN each break our falls. And you have demonstrated that in your posts from previous stories. Sometimes we manage it, sometimes we wallow in our pouty-headed 4 year old. But I know, thanks to reading your blog regularly, I catch myself much more often. I can choose roadrage or to slow down and allow a fellow traveler in. Depends on whether I recognize the fall before I'm my nasty self or my Mary Poppins self.

Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful post. I'm choosing Mary Poppins today, all day.


Anonymous said...

I think people are not very kind with one another, sometimes because they are having a bad day and many times because they just don't care. I notice that some act like they are the only people on the world or the most important ones and if anyone interrupts them they react with anger or rudeness.
This made me think in how I try to be considered but on social situations I must look rude (or weird), I don't always notice people around me and if I do they are too scary, I can't always have the courage or ability to be nice and say something pleasent as 'Good Morning', I try when I notice others to smile and make some kind of gesture but many times I can't. I learned those rules because I know it makes people feel nice if someone greets them and I think that's important so it's strange that people that could do this easily don't do it because they don't think it's important. I think many children are learning bad examples from their parents but that doesn't say who they are going to become, I learned by myself those things and not by example so maybe some will become considerate people.
I enjoyed this post like always.

Susan said...

So you too are a bunny eater... Well, you're in good company. :)

rickismom said...

great post

Anonymous said...

Late posting: I have noticed that only a few years ago, it was "I'm OK, you're OK" It seems to have changed to "I'm OK, fuck you". I am not sure what could possibly be next...