Thursday, February 28, 2013

From Bad To Worse

I was waiting to be served soup and had decided to ask for salad as well. As soup was being poured, before the salad got underway, I got some very serious negative vibes from the server. His displeasure in serving me grew ever more obvious and, finally, in frustration, I took the soup and told him to skip the salad. The woman standing beside me, being served by the other fellow there, was an employee in the same building where the lunch counter was. She could see I was upset.

She scooted up beside me as I waited at the till to pay, she said, with a friendly smile, "Don't worry about him, he is just really uncomfortable around people with disabilities." She was charm itself. Her smile froze on her face as she saw the thunder forming on mine.

It took a great deal of self control for this not to become an out and out scene.

He pissed me off.

She enraged me.

He was a bigot.

She wanted to make that fact acceptable to me.

What the hell was I supposed to say, "Oh, well, that's OK then" or maybe, "That's OK, I certainly understand why he'd hate us cripples."

Really, what response did she expect.

Oh, don't worry, she's just a bit racist.

Oh, never you mind he's a tad misogynist.

Really, really ...REALLY??

I told her the truth. I told her that what she said made the situation worse. Here I was just thinking that he was a garden variety jerk and now I find out that his behaviour was actually targeted at me for being who I am. I asked her if she understood that.

She went from charming to, um, less so.

She was only trying to help.

If you are wondering if a letter of complaint has been written and sent.

That would be a YES.


Blog editor said...

Good on you for telling her, Dave. I long ago decided to answer jerkish comments related to disability with "and how exactly do you think that helps ?" they still don't get it, but it is easy to remember while I think of something more pertinent ... Or not!


CL said...

WOW. I didn't think much could surprise me anymore, but I find her comment really unbelievable. Like it's a quirk that he treats disabled people like crap. I'm very glad you sent a letter.

Anonymous said...

I have a mean streak - I think I would have "let" him make the salad, and then when he was finished, tell him you changed your mind and don't want either. Then again - I have a mean streak. It is a finely honed streak, painted and defined by the countless jerks who treat me like a second class citizen. Lately if someone says something like that woman,about being uncomfortable around me - I say "Oh - I understand. I feel the same way around ignorant people. I best move on." It often leaves them standing there for a moment before they "get it". Kudos for complaining.

Mary said...

Every time I hear someone whining (because it is always a whiny tone of voice, isn't it?) that they were "only trying to help!" I feel an overwhelming wish for a cartoon Acme frying pan emblazoned with an "OPPOSITE OF HELP" logo to magically appear so that I can spang them with it.

John R. said...

Goodness...when those darned, pesky disabled folks come into his lunch counter it must really ruin his day. I hope he has a good therapist to help him through.
As for the customer who excused his rudeness, she needs to take some lessons at the school of, "Silence=Death"!! Hope the soup was decent.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Ha! I'm with Mary - where's the frying pan for truth and spanging?

Dave, this sucks. This experience, that guy, his attitude, her "help" her attitude...

I'm sorry.

Andrea S. said...

Yes, one order of Mary's "OPPOSITE OF HELP"-logo emblazoned cartoon Acme frying pan to go, please.

I can't understand how the woman thought it would help to be told that the waiter was uncomfortable because of who you were. Unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me, but that still doesn't make sense to me.

Personally, I actually am okay with someone being INITIALLY nervous about meeting and dealing with their first deaf person (me). *IF* I can see they're clearly trying to work on it and overcome it and making sure to allow their own fears or discomfort get in the way of treating me with courtesy and respect. I've seen people learn to become more comfortable over time as they come to realize through experience that, hey, it's not so hard to interact with people with disabilities after all (and that they're not as incompetent at it as they fear). So I'm willing to hang back and give them the time and space to get to that place on their own ... IF I can see that they are taking responsibility for confronting their own uncomfortable feelings about me and are clearly working on getting there.

What I dislike is not when someone is nervous or uncomfortable around me per se, but when they refuse to "own" their own discomfort and dump the problem of dealing with it on me by treating me rudely. It's not my discomfort or embarrassment, it's theirs. THEY need to find a way to deal with it in a way that doesn't make my life any more difficult or uncomfortable than it needs to be. Not because, oh, poor me is disabled and already has it so hard (BLEH, not interested in your pity thanks). But simply because, it's rude to use your own discomfort around me as an excuse for being stand-offish or otherwise boorish or otherwise trying to foist YOUR problems (discomfort) off onto a person they don't belong to (me).

Hope all this made some sense.

Susan said...

Thank you for speaking up - and for telling us how to do it if we're in the same situation. (Same as yesterday.)

I sure hope your week gets better, Dave..

Joyfulgirl said...

Dreadful. It's a pity she didn't feel a comment to the server on his behaviour was more appropriate than a comment to you excusing the behaviour.

wendy said...

I thought my eyes might pop out of my head when I read the woman's comment to you. I'm just shaking my head.

Lesley Sharkey said...

Seriously!! I can't believe she felt the need to try an excuse behaviour like that! I'm not sure which is worse the people who behave like that and those who think it is okay,!

Shan said...

Laughing out loud.

You posted once about an annoying trend in our society; the attitude that shrugs and says 'It's just the way I am" or "I'm weird like that" or whatever. It's an excuse for all kinds of incivility.

So bizarre that she seemed to find his attitude totally okay and excusable.

Anonymous said...

Uncomfortable is different from whatever you describe him as doing. While I hope to live in a world where people aren't "uncomfortable" around my son, you can be uncomfortable and still be nice.
I'm uncomfortable *in myself and my ability to act properly* around all different kinds of people...doctors, strangers, the unabashedly wealthy ;) but I still treat them with respect.

Anonymous said...

"She scooted up beside me"

Scooted, as in used a scooter? Was she subject to this guy's displeasure as well? That might make it different, but not better.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Sharon, no she wasn't using a scooter, I was just trying to use a play on words ...

All, thanks again for your comments. I think, for me, the benefit I get out of this blog is that I can write these things down and get validation or feedback. I'm only 6 years in to a life as a disabled wheelchair user and it's still a steep learning curve!