Sunday, July 29, 2012

Being Seen: One of Two

I know he saw me.


I do.

He was two ahead of me in line at the grocery store. I saw him glance over to me as I pulled in line behind him. He was a tall, good looking, broad shouldered guy going slightly grey around the temples. When his turn came he unloaded his grocery cart onto the counter, organizing things in anticipation of having them packed into bags. Meticulous and organized in a way that I will never be! The checkout guy, the typical cashier for the accessible aisle, said hello to my fellow shopper and then noticed me in line and waved a greeting. Again, I was glanced at.

It's important that you understand here: I know he saw me.

When all the things were out of his cart, he backed it up and pushed it at an angle to the counter, leaving the way blocked except for a narrow passageway around it. There is no way he couldn't know that I'd be unable to pass. The couple in front of me, young and in love, step easily around it and waited their turn to put groceries, which they had carried in bags, onto the counter. They noticed none but each other and had the air of them that they were in the stage of relationship where standing accounted for less than a third of their time together.

By now there was a line up behind me. I advanced toward the cart, blocking my way, and the line came right with me. There was no room to back up, or maneuver myself in any way. I reached for the cart and pulled it back an inch or two and then was stuck, I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't back up enough to give me room to pull it out of the way and I couldn't go forward. I was frozen for a moment. I couldn't see behind me to ask someone to help me, I couldn't be seen by the couple with eyes glued on eyes. But most of all, I didn't want to have to do anything.

He saw me.

He saw my wheelchair.

He couldn't miss the wheelchair symbol hanging over the checkout.

At that moment the woman in front of me noticed the cart. She was unpacking her bag, thus distracted for a moment from being in love, she said, "Oh, my, that cart is in your way." Her Sir Galahad leapt into action and took the cart and, seeing that there was no way on earth to get it back past me and the line behind me, took it and pushed it through, and behind the man who had left it there. Mr. Block Your Way, simply stepped ahead and let the cart pass behind him, while he paid for his groceries.

I thanked the young man and young woman who'd helped me. The smiled and said it was no problem.

But it was a problem.

If not for them, for me.

My problem is this: I can't figure out what happened.

Was the man who left the cart simply ignorant?


Was the man who left the cart simply hostile?


Was the man who left the cart simply self absorbed?


Was the man who left the cart simply oblivious?

It bothers me not knowing. It bothers me that I care to know. So, I'm asking you ... help me know what happened here.


Rachael said...

My guess is, you'll never know.... From my own experience, there are times when, even if I have seen someone, something, some situation - I simply don't see the 'next step' - the likely problem or issue, or whatever. I try hard, now, to change that, but some days it takes more energy than I have, and I wind up tired and stressed, at home, unable to manage going out because I know how much energy it will take for me just to negotiate my world. I don't necessary LOOK like I have an impairment - but I do....
I think it's the grieving process, but it might be menopause, or both, or something else altogether. It is significant, only partially predictable (some days/times I function better than others), and can be enormously distressing (to me) and pretty annoying (to others).
I hope it gets better, I don't know that it will.
Which is why I think, you'll never know...

Anonymous said...

Once again I am surprised that you don't use your words. Just because someone saw you doesn't mean it translates into what you need. We make assumptions that others should think of these things - out of respect and common sense - but they don't. If you don't speak up, you don't get action. I know, I know, you get tired of always having to ask - but consider it part of the "pride" you have. Make sure it is always the "good" pride, not the pride that stops you from asking for assistance in meeting your goals.

Also - if the fellow wasn't finished his transaction - why do you feel that you should be able to enter "the space"? Do you think he would have moved it after he finished paying? Perhaps he didn't want you in behind him, or didn't want you to see the keypad for debit, or was uncomfortable thinking perhaps you might squeeze in or by, so he made sure he had his space until the end of his turn.

I think you captured it "But most of all I didn't want to have to do anything." Yet I can't help think that if it bothered you enough to care to know why - the person to ask would have been the fellow involved. But...

Rickismom said...

probably just damn lazy. Not very intelligent as well.....

Louise said...

I too think it's possible to see without seeing (though I rarely remember that when this sort of thing happens when I'm out with my foster son and we have to negotiate it). In more than forty years it's only once happened to me that when I asked the person was not hugely apologetic and sorted out the situation straight away. No, it IS awful to have to ask. And then again we never know what's going on for the person causing the problem.

It reminds me of the people who say to me 'I can't find it' - and I KNOW that when I go and look the 'it' will be in its usual and obvious place and I really don't understand why they can't see it. But they genuinely can't. And I have a friend who has a specific impairment of processing, due to a brain injury. So she would see you, and the trolley, and not be able to connect the two.

Sometimes negotiating people is much harder than negotiating kerbs!

John R. said...

He was ignorant, self-absorbed, hostile and oblivious.....much more problematic, he was a person with an agenda; his own....those types of folks make life in our communities less civilized and much more exclusive. That is my take on Mr. Leave It In The Way is that he understands very little about others. I bet this also a guy that will get gasoline, keep his car in the pump spot, go in to the store, shop, keep his car in the way of other people who need to get gas....basically, a slug....that is my take..

Jan Goldfield said...

Those sorts of things happen to me all the time. I think that it's a matter of the person just not giving a damn about what is going on around him. Sure he saw a person sitting there, but this fool is not in touch with his surroundings, just himself and his immediate goal. We assume people notice us when they really don't care at all.
So, did he do (or not do) anything on purpose. I think not. He just doesn't care. That goes for most folks, I think. You are aware, as am I. That doesn't change anything. I speak...."hey you, move your ass." They come awake, look confused and say, "Oh, am I in your way?"
Men are most often guilty of this. They are used to diminishing and discounting woman. They think they are entitled and just don't care. We are supposed to get out of their way, to bow to their superiority. This dyke doesn't. As they saunter in the middle of the grocery store aisle or sidewalk or wherever, I continue on my scooter. They had better move or get hit. And hitting has been known to happen.

Andrea S. said...

I'm with Rachael's first line--we'll probably never know for sure.

Though I know some people do have have more than the usual difficulty with spatial relations, meaning they may have trouble visualizing what needs to happen for person X to move through space Y. So they may honestly think they have left room for someone to pass when maybe they haven't. And this can be hard enough to figure out even for common every day situations, such as walking people coming through an aisle. With the common situations, at least you can eventually develop a sort of "script" for how much space to carve out--i.e., you know how much space to leave for others to pass not because you have calculated it just then but because a certain amount of space usually does seem to have worked in the past, so you memorize by rote how much space you should create in the future. Having to completely recalculate the equation for someone who occupies space in a different way, and who also traverses space differently (for example, you can't go sideways in a wheelchair. Believe it or not, I once had to be told this fact, years ago, before I grasped this seemingly simple principle). I know at least one person who stopped driving because she kept having trouble figuring out how much space to leave between her and other cars was "safe".

I also know that for me, as a person with attention deficit disorder, sometimes I get hyperfocused on something (yes, attention deficit disorder can sometimes involve, not only times of extreme distractibility, but ALSO times when you become so focused on one thing that you honestly are oblivious to other things to an extent that non-ADD people seem to have difficulty believing). So this could be one more reason why a person might honestly not realize they're causing a problem until and unless gently told of the fact. (Trust me, shouting at me does not get rid of my ADD. But if you alert me to a problem, I'll try to address it.)

So I *do* see the possibility that maybe he really didn't recognize that he was creating a problem for you. And might even have appreciated being gently alerted to the fact. So when I read some of the more negative interpretations of his behavior I get a little uncomfortable.

Though, human nature being what it is, I do realize I can't reject the possibility out of hand that he could just be a boor. Which is why I think we'll never know for sure.

clairesmum said...

There's an old quote from someone (too lazy to go hunt for the correct attribution) about ". ..try not to attribute to malice what might better be ascribed to ignorance." in situations where the encounter is not in an ongoing setting or relationship I try to just let it go.....tell myself the other person didn't realize, is having a bad day,etc. usually that satisfies my need for a reason for why someone does something. In reality the reason is usually not something I need to know about or change. In ongoing situations I do have to figure out how to use my words and that works better with a little planning. My spontaneous responses when annoyed can be rather sharp and over the top for the situation, and sometimes I have to eat those words. It is a challenge, and when a big part of your identity is advocacy and role modeling how to be an agent of change, it is likely even harder to let an incident pass by without analysis and response. Hope today has some smiles in it for you and Joe!

Ettina said...

clairesmum, you're thinking of Hanlon's Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

You can find an wrticle on this here:

Lisa Gleeson said...

Well Dave,
Since you ask :) I do believe he could have been totally oblivious, I know I am sometimes ( I blame it on the meds for my migrainse, lol). However, I also think he wasn't a big enough person to remark what an ass he had just made of himself and say he was sorry. I know I would have been all over the place apologizing for being so stupid no matter who I had blocked out of the line.
What a jerk!

Karen said...

Why are people here so protective of this man? Almost everyone discounts the idea that there might be malice here. Even those who think that what he did was wrong, they attribute it to him being a jerk or being ignorant, malice and hositily simply aren't believed to be possible. I understand that there is a danger of falsely attributing malice to ignorance, but isn't there an equal danger of attributing malice to ignorance? I believe we need to recognize that the attitudes towards people with disabilities are hardening. Hasn't anyone seen the study over here in the UK that shows thtt hate crimes towards people with disabilities are skyrocketing? I myself sense that people now feel they have a right to hate me, permission given by the media and the politicians. I shake my head when I read all of you suggesting that what happened here simply can't be outright hostility and prejudice!

Rachel said...

I think you should have said something. His response would have told you what you want to know. Without that there's no way to know; there's too many possibilities.

Blunt, but that's what I think.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave, you forgot one option:

Self-Important Douchebag

They are particularly prevalent in grocery stores, where they constantly park their carts right in the center of the aisle. I run into them all the time. I KNOW they see me; they can't help but see my brisk motions in their peripheral vision. Yet they persist in ignoring me. Until I either A) grab their cart and move it myself, which gets their attention pretty darn quick, or B)issue the imperative "Move your cart, please!" in a loud and don't-mess-with-me tone. That usually nets me an exasperated look, which only earns them an eye-roll in return.

Do I like going to the grocery store knowing the Self-Important Douchebags will be out in full force? No. I dislike spending energy "teaching pigs to sing" by making worthless people behave in a civil fashion.

But the alternative--saying nothing--is even more unacceptable to me. And so I march on.

Jan Goldfield, you GO, girl! I only wish I could see you in action.


wheeliecrone said...

I have no way to know what the man's thought processes were. I cannot guess his mind-set. His behaviour was clearly rude and inconsiderate.

When this sort of thing happens to me, I too am at a loss for words. And there are some situations in which I tend to believe the old saying, "If you don't already know, then I can't tell you."

If you hadn't been there, Dave, he would have found someone else to be rude to. Rude person.

Moose said...

I love it when I go to the grocery store and as I'm working my way into one of the motorized shopping carts, someone on their way out the door decides to leave their cart right in front of me. Most of the time they look right through me, but there are plenty of times where they look right at me and nearly stick their nose up in the air. "I want to do this, to hell with you." With a side dish of "I can't be bothered for you."

My favorite supermarket is almost always very good about making sure things aren't intentionally blocked up and the people who work there are always offering me help to reach things. And if I politely mention that this display case of bread blocks my access to this part of the deli, they apologize and move it immediately (and it doesn't go back there).

It's the other customers I'd like to strangle. Oh, I wonder if I can get the store to put up a sign between the handicapped parking spots that says, "These blue lines are not here for leaving your shopping cart when you're done."

Shan said...

No, I think he looked at you, decided to be a barrier as a way to announce his assumptions about you, and did it.

The bit where the couple behind him had to push his cart past his arse and he just let them go on by -- that's the telling moment right there.

Tamara said...

As I read this, I thought the same thing Shan posted - as soon as he just let the couple take care of his cart without an apology or even a flinch, he revealed his character.