You know how awful it is when someone looks at you and then makes an assumption based on stereotype? Annoying, right? Outright outrageous, right? Anyone with a disability, with a difference, will know what I'm talking about here.
You know what's EVEN WORSE THAN THAT!?!?!?!?!?!?
When you are the one making the assumption, and you know that you know better so you have no excuse.
I was riding on WheelTrans to work, very early in the morning. When I'm picked up and it's still 6 o'something in the morning, I'm usually the first on the bus. Not yesterday. I was pickup number four and three other people were already on board. To my right was a young woman, very attractive, dressed like the fashionable student that she was, who was dropped off at a downtown University. To my left and ahead of me was a very elderly man strapped into his seat with his walker strapped down up at the front. To my right and behind me was an elderly woman, strapped into her seat with her cane resting on her lap.
We all rode in silence.
At that time in the morning no one is particularly chatty.
I did speak to the older man, though, as the window above him was open about an inch and cold air poured into the van and streamed over me. I was getting colder and colder and colder. The older guy didn't seem to be awake and I really didn't want to bother him but when my left ear was so cold Joe's tongue would stick to it I spoke up. He woke but didn't comprehend what I'd asked. The driver spoke up and said that we'd be stopping soon and he'd get the window closed for me.
Then we pulled up to an industrial plaza kind of place, I've been to many of these kinds of places all over the city, they seem to be popular for housing day programmes of one sort or another. When the bus stopped I looked to see what the place was called. I do this for two reasons. One, this is a great way to get to know the length and breadth of services in the city. Two, sometimes their names are so bad as to be funny. I couldn't see the name of the place anywhere.
The fellow got up, with great difficulty, and began towards the door of the bus. The woman behind also got up, under her own steam, and slipped by me and I watched them both exit the bus and go to the door. I SAW her take a key out of her purse and unlatch the door. They entered, him taking some time to step up the small step to enter the building.
As the driver was shutting the window I asked him what place this was. He told me that the couple runs a very successful business out of this building and that he drops them off quite regularly and always early in the morning. "They work long hours," he told me. I was gobsmacked. I had absolutely assumed that they were being dropped off at some kind of day services for seniors. Absolutely sure. That's ABSOLUTELY SURE.
And I was wrong.
I made the same kind of assumption about them that others make about me.
I KNOW BETTER.
A lot better.
I shook myself alert, reminded myself to be careful in categorising people.
You know what's even worse?
I'm really exposing myself here.
I felt that my assumption about them going to a senior centre for some cards and coffee lessened who they were. AS IF. AS IF. AS IF working in their own business made them somehow more, I don't know ... yes I do ... valuable.
What's wrong with me????
Every time I think I have the destination in sight, I discover that I'm still miles and miles and miles from having arrived.
Damn and Blast.