Thursday, March 01, 2012

Commenting on a Comment

I don't normally do this but I've decided that I need to discuss something here. A couple of days ago someone, anonymously, left a comment regarding my post about arriving in Thunder Bay to discover that the room we'd carefully booked, the accessible room, had been given to another traveler and we were left stranded. Here's what the comment said:

"OMG they made a mistake and booked your room! This happens all the time, and you found a room across the street, how about a little stiff upper lip and stoicism for gods sake. you really are the center of your universe, take off your victim T-Shirt for one day please..."Should we name the hotel, i will let you decide"? Sure, why not, you spend 90% of your time finding fault why not go all the way?"

Now, though people forget, I'm as human as everyone else and just as capable of being stung by words. Word's Hit ... I know that. That particular post drew some ire from some readers - my expression of anger particularly and my choice of words even more particularly. I knew that was going to be the case when I wrote it. I had decided to publish it because the post expressed exactly how I was feeling in that moment. I thought it was honest, and I thought that an honest expression of a moment in the life of myself as a person with a disability had some value.

After reading that comment and reacting, as one might imagine I reacted, I wondered if the comment reflected how many people see the complaints and the anger of those of us with disabilities. Are we just whiny babies who want things our way all the time? Are we people who should feel more gratitude and express less annoyance? Are we, or more specifically, am I, just a complainer?

I did some research, looking up the various stereotypes of people with disabilities. I wondered who we (I) are (am) expected to be. There are, of course, many, and often contradicting, stereotypes. One that kept popping up was the 'gentle soul' someone who 'bears life's difficulties with grace' someone 'never speaking a complaining word' someone with 'wisdom in their eyes and knowledge in their silences'. OK, that's simply not me. It's also not many of the people I know, disabled or not.

Interestingly I hear lovely things said about people with disabilities all the time. Particularly people with intellectual disabilities ... that great mass of 'all loving' 'constantly smling' group of 'forever children.' Something very much at odds with the reality of the lives of the people I know and have the privilege to serve. I read this often in blogs by parents or blogs by those who have siblings with disabilities. I always cringe a little inside when I read these because I know that though someone with Down Syndrome might have a happy demeanour they also have the capacity to be angry and frustrated and upset. The first time I heard someone with Down Syndrome tell a staff to 'F' off ... I discovered it was possible to applaud while dropping over in a dead faint.

We are completely and fully human.

Not a drop of saintly blood in any of us.

So I looked back at the criticism and decided that I actually have a stiff upper lip and a fair degree of stoicism ... just not all the time and not in every circumstance. I don't think the Brits would have had an empire if they didn't also have a backbone and a voice and the skill to know when to make displeasure known. I know for sure that I don't have a 'victim t-shirt', I checked my closet and then realized that they didn't come in my size.

I also checked over the history of this blog, in it I have congratulated various companies and various organizations for what they've done and how they do it. I ended the year by naming the best experiences I've had as a disabled traveller. The positive blogs about businesses and services far outweigh the negative ones. And the negative ones are about 'discrimination' or 'lack of concern' which I believe are fair game. The person making the comment may think that all we did was have to drive across the street. Well, that's not quite true, we had to go to several hotels before finding the one that happened to be across the street. All we went to were full - oh they had rooms, but they didn't have accessible rooms. A non disabled traveller would have stayed in a different room in the same hotel, we had to wander, calling hotels as we went, to find somewhere, both worried that we'd be stuck in the cold. I think, therefore, that anger was appropriate, that the expression of anger was legitimate and if ever there was a time for the 'f' word, that would be it.

So, here's the deal, fair readers. I am not going to censor my life here. I will occasionally be angry and occasionally, only very occasionally, swear and curse in my blog. It happens, I'm human, it's real. And yes, sometimes I will sound like a whiny baby - and I'll bet all of you will have to admit to those moments yourself. And yes, sometimes I'll present like I'm a victim - but then, sometimes I am! Yes, and sometimes I only think I am.

So comments make me think. I wondered at the anger behind the comment. I wondered at the reason for the assaultive nature with which the writer expressed those thoughts. I wondered if maybe they should take off the bully T shirt and develop a softer heart to go along with that stiff lip.


Elaine Bradley said...

I don't see your remarks about being messed around with your room booking as whining. I think the (rude) commenter missed the whole point, which, to my mind, is to illustrate that often an oversight and slackness on the part of the organisation can inconvenience a person - beyond what is reasonable. You pay the price of their thoughtlessness. I see you as a very useful commentator and 'pricker' of the social conscience - you refuse to be invisible or unlistened to. Please ignore the dickhead and carry on being as great as you are. It is not worth losing a heartbeat over!

Mary said...

I don't think I know a single person, disabled or otherwise, who *wouldn't* be severely pissed off to arrive at a hotel after a long drive to discover that the room they booked had been given to someone else.

I believe that your anonymous comment has a grand total of Bog All to do with disability, stereotypes, etc, etc, etc... it may not even have anything to do with *you*. It has everything to do with an anonymous person trying to amuse themselves by taking a lazy swipe of "whiner!" at a blogger of any variety who criticises something.

It's your blog. You can write anything you please as long as you're not violating the ToS.

Team Lando said...

It's your blog, and it's your life. You SHOULD get angry from time to time. I would have been beyond angry.

Thank you also, for helping to bust stereotypes of people with disabilities. I am one of those parent-bloggers with a child with Down syndrome, but I know FULL well she is not always an angel (and I have photos to prove it.)

Your positive posts far outweigh the negatives, and I think including the negative experiences (ie, a hotel room being given away after making specific arrangements) opens people's eyes.

Bubbles said...

Good for you Dave! I say, a little complaint and a little ire are all good things when justified... In this case, they absolutely were! I have worked for many years (I prefer not to date myself here) with people with intellectual disabilities and as well have personal experience. For whatever reason... when I get a fiesty, "difficult" client come across my desk, it makes me blissfully happy to know they are out there raising hell and making the world pay attention until they (the world) figures out how to listen and learn to communicate with them! Oh yes and accomodate their needs! BTW.... all I do in my blog... when I actually blog... is vent and complain! Probably not the greatest use but I do label it "Catharsis" because I prefer to put my feelings/frustrations there instead of keeping them inside of me, it's how I cope! From a non-disabled persons perspective... please keep reminding me about challenges such as this incident because I take far too much for granted given my experiences and it keeps me in check and sparks thoughts of change!

Betty said...

Love your BLOG, I don't think you are negative or a whiner. I don't care much for the person who left you that comment. HE needs to stop whining and go elsewhere if he doesn't like what you have to say.

John R. said...

The reader's comment, I thought, was one made by a person that does not fully get the "gestalt" of your blog. Too bad for them and too bad that they, in my strong opinion, are most likely ignorant. I usually don't trust anonymous comments with that level of ire.

However, I believe in the STPF Rule as related to anger. It is my scientific theory, that I probably developed through my years as a social worker, as I worked with angry people and have been angry a few times in my life!

Anger has it's root in;

Frustration....thus S.T.P.F....

Trace back anytime you has been angry and there you will find the root being one of the above conditions of the soul.

SO, for what it is worth, anger is a product that stems from something deeper and is simply a symptom. So, when anger arrives, it comes propelled by one of these drivers and the reader who left the comment should look well beyond "whining" as they so eloquently and insensitively indicated that you were being and they should begin to see a person's anger for it's true genesis. I bet that person will understand people with disabilities, and perhaps themselves, a bit more.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I don't think you should have to defend or explain yourself on your blog. I admire your honesty and self-awareness. I think that person has something else going on and they decided to target you for some reason. Another stereotype of people with disabilities is "easy target". You are absolutely right to label him a bully. But - surprise! - you are not the victim he thought you were. I think that the people who follow your blog regularly got where you were coming from. Quite frankly I would have been beside myself with frustration and I would have been scared at the prospect of having no where to go.

You mention the British and their stiff upper lip. The first thing that popped into my mind was Queen Victoria and the phrase attributed to her - "We are not amused" - you were seriously not amused and you had every right to say so on YOUR blog.


Faery said...


I'm afraid to say it but I think you have been the victim of a troll. That person probably does not really think the things they have said , but have merely commented to get a rise out of you and us readers. I know it is difficult, but I wouldn't take it personally. That person will probably never even pass by this blog again.

Colleen - Did you know that Queen Victoria never actually said 'We are not amused', it was attributed to her during her reign and she denied it, her family and staff recorded that she was often immensely amused and 'roared with laughter' on many occasions. As a Brit it pleases me to know that even Victoria's stiff upper lip was not as stiff as all that!

joanne said...

Timely Dave, yesterday was Anti-bullying pink tshirt day...I hope you have one in your closet?! have a great day all!

Susan said...

I can't stand people pleasers. (Notwithstanding that I tend that way myself! But I don't like myself when I do.) I don't always agree with you. There are rare occasions when I don't like what you say at all. But I staunchly defend your right to be "who you are". That's one of the most attractive parts of your charismatic pull on me. What you see is what you get. If you're mad, you'll tell me. If you have a question you'll ask. If you're concerned you'll challenge me. If you're pissed, you're just pissed. When love me, it MEANS something.

I can't understand anyone's criticizing the anger and frustration you felt that night. Not only did you not have a room at the end of tired day (after you were absolutely guaranteed to have one!), but, tired and travel weary, (with every right to be cranky), the prize, which was already "yours" was snatched right out of your hands. You were suddenly facing a black hole of uncertainty. You and Joe needed a hot meal and the opportunity to get horizontal - to gather energy and get restored for the next long day of travel. You faced the prospect of either a long search for a room that might work, an unacceptable substitute, or possibly even a night in the car. (I know I'm just restating what you already said, but I am in such disbelief that anyone would question or challenge your feelings that I just have to say it again!)

Like I said a few days back. Stay the course, Dave, stay the course. Hang on tight to who you are. Because I for one (along with the vast majority) wouldn't want you to be any other way. 'Cause you wouldn't be "you" anymore. And what a loss that would be...

Cindy B. said...

I wonder what that person would have said if they had arrived at the hotel and been told they had to park a mile away and carry their own bags that distance because the hotel had given away all the parking spaces!

In reality it would still be "an inconvenience" because presumably they could walk but I am sure they would have been furious and would have expressed that very clearly.

krlr said...

Your other readers have already said this so just commenting for the sake of volume & show of support.

Your blog, your story, your right to "bear life's difficulties with grace" on Monday, be blue Tuesday, and to vent about poor service Wedn - noting (again) ANYONE would have been annoyed to lose a room, it goes beyond that when others' obvious back up options might not be available.

Also, whose parenting blogs are you reading with constantly loving smiling children? I want some of whatever they're giving those kids! (kidding... kidding...)

Jan said...

Bravo Dave both for your response to the blogger who obviously does not get it and for your insights into the human condition. I have never noticed a victim t-shirt in this blog just someone who is looking for an even playing field for all people. Thanks for presenting the other side( as misguided and misinformed as it was) but I hope that that person develops a few more people skills and makes his/her living driving truck and is not in "human" services.

Jan said...

Bravo Dave both for your response to the blogger who obviously does not get it and for your insights into the human condition. I have never noticed a victim t-shirt in this blog just someone who is looking for an even playing field for all people. Thanks for presenting the other side( as misguided and misinformed as it was) but I hope that that person develops a few more people skills and makes his/her living driving truck and is not in "human" services.

Luvmypeanut said...

We all have a right to our feelings and it's your blog and you can share what you want, when you want and how you want. If someone doesn't like it, don't read. nuff said.

Nan said...

I like the fact that the comment led you to wonder (well, you know what I mean) led you to wonder .... I wonder what the stereotypes are? Definitely a mature and wise spirit in you Dave. This in itself is a little bit of propulsion for me. Happy day.

Jazz said...

We all have the right to feel our feelings, and express ourselves in any way we see fit on our own blogs.

Too bad about anonymous's lack of empathy.

Thanks, as always, for sharing yourself and your humanity, Dave (and Joe!), warts and all.

From one warty blogger to another-


Myrrien said...

I think that sometimes to change an attitude you need to raise issues, sometimes the same issue, again and again. Maybe if people start listening and start changing you won't need these posts.

Thankfully my own blog is nowhere near as popular as yours because I think those making comments need to remember this is your blog, your opinion, your voice and your experience. We share what you choose to share, it isn't your whole life but the part that you bring to our attention.

Haven't read anyone elses comments but thanks again Dave. I don't always agree with you but I value your opinions and insight and hopefully I have learned as a result.

Jayne Wales said...

The person who left the blog did not have a clue about what they were talking about. We have every right , all of us, to be really annoyed when our travel plans are messed up by someone who is not doing their job properly. Again I refer to decent hospitaility and going out of your way to make someone feel at home. We also have every right to say how difficult it made it for us, and some far more than others due to their disability.
Things that make life difficult because of a disability can build up each time like a "small murder" and then whoa betide when it has built up too much that day.
Perhaps that man is Basil Fawlty moved to your neck of the woods from the UK..

Rachel Douglas said...

Gasp! You are human! You have levels! You have dare I say it.....balls!

Belly (aka: Liz) said...

Occasionally, I get an acquaintance, friend or family member asking me why I share so much on my own blog. THEY would never be able to share (the good, bad and ugly) stuff that I do, and find it uncomfortable that I can and do.

Initially, it hurt my feelings a bit, because it felt like I'd done something wrong, sharing what I'm learning, as a mother, wife, human.

But these days, I chuckle and say, "I overshare. It's my gift and curse. It's my gig and my blog."

And I keep doing what I do, without apology. This is MY space and I shall fill it with MY stuff. That's it, that's all.

This is YOUR blog, Dave and I'm so glad that you'll continue to share the stuff that YOU do - the good, the bad and the ugly. It's life as you see it - life as you live it - and you're such a great share-er.

Roll on, my friend. Roll on!

Anonymous said...

You had every right to be mad. Sometimes I think you go too much in the other direction honestly. Too willing to accept being treated like crap by people.