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.'