Friday, March 22, 2013


We did a u-turn and pulled into place. The driver, a nice fellow, got out and helped an elderly woman in a wheelchair to come down her ramp and up into the bus. As he strapped her chair down, she told him the quickest way to get where she was going. She wanted him to turn the big bus around in a small, snow filled driveway and then go up a side street several yards back. He nodded indicating that he'd heard her instructions. She was, I thought, brusque to the point of rude - but then, I thought, that maybe this was just how she asserted herself.

When the driver pulled away it became clear that he'd looked at the driveway and thought better of making the turn then. My fellow passenger got very angry and called to him to stop, to back up, to turn around to GO THE WAY SHE SAID TO GO. He said something, kindly, back to her but she couldn't hear him because she was berating him. The then made a turn into a cul-de-sac and this set her off even more. She told him that he was stupid that she'd told him the way to go, that he should listen to his customers. A few minutes later she realised that he was using this as the 'turn around' point and was, indeed, headed the way she wanted.

She quieted until we were near where she was going, then she started up again. She wanted to go in the back, not the front, because there are fewer stairs that way. She kept yelling NO, NO, NO, at every driveway until we got to where he was to turn HEREHEREHEREHERE she screamed. He turned in and drove until she said hereherehereherehere. He got out and came round to get her out of the bus.

As he was undoing the straps she began chatting with him as if he was a close friend, telling him about her schedule and where she went for which appointment and she talked about how much she liked the exercises she did as part of her therapy. He responded, appropriately and with apparent interest. She was helped into the building, not easy being in a wheelchair and it not being a level entrance.

We drove off.

I thought about the grace with which he dealt with her temper and her verbal assault.

I have been in the role of both support provider and support recipient.

What I want support providers to realise when I receive their support is that I'm fully human and I want to be treated with respect.

What I want support recipients to realise when I offer support is that I'm fully human and I want to be treated with respect.

Sometimes I think we worry a lot about being treated with respect and worry less about whether we are treating with respect.

That's a mistake.

Because everyone matters.


Anonymous said...

My question is why no one called her one it. If some punk teenager was berating a bus driver, others would most likely tell him to back off. Yet a woman is obviosly being rude and no one says anythings. This is a double standard. If folks want to be treated the same then they too should be held to the same standard of civil and respectful behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave,
Many people who should and do know better treat me horribly and get a free pass because I am paid to support them. I do kindly point that out and where appropriate work to build better skills, but how many times must I be called horrible names, assaulted or have people be just plain mean when all I am doing is cooking breakfast :)
"It's all part of the job" gets old
Have a great day

Anonymous said...

I am a support worker as well as the parent of a child affected by a disability.

In my life I have worked with individuals who were quite difficult to get along with. Prior to graduating from college and working as a support worker I worked in management. I dealt with customer feedback on a daily basis. In many cases, customers weren't upset by service... we were just someone to lash out at... someone they didn't know.. just a face to let off some steam to. Not an excuse for their behaviour but an explaination. In my 15 yrs in management, I was a manager but mostly a counsellor. I developed a great level of empathy for people who were well... just down right nasty- realizing that they must be going thru something in their lives that was affecting them in such a negative way. The meaner they were the kinder I was... because that is who I am. A kind, sincere,empathetic person. Don't get me wrong, I would also speak up and tell said individuals that I wouldn't continue a conversation with them if they were threatening/down right rude.

I guess my point is... we never know what someone is going thru in their lives... we can't control how others speak/act towards us- we can, however, control how we respond to others. :)

Anonymous said...

I drove a woman who would scream "TURN LEFT" when it was not legal or possible, but that is the way she wanted to go. When I did not, she would throw things at me. She did understand construction had changed the traffic flow, so hereherehere will have "TURN LEFT" resounding in my head all day :) funny how I miss her now

Anonymous said...

Really? I can't really accept the idea that it is good and grace-filled to accept verbal assault.

If it happens once or twice, I can shrug it off and chalk it up to a bad day. But if it happens on a regular basis, then it's time for a little chat. Somewhere along the lines of, "I am trying my best to help you. You may not speak to me in that manner while I am trying to do so."

And yes, I've done this. I've found it works.


Anonymous said...

You do wonder what the woman's experience had been with previous drivers for her to feel the need to micromanage the present one.

This doesn't excuse her rudeness - but people who need a lot of help, and consistently get a grab bag of competence on the part of the help providers, must get really frustrated.

I don't need much help (yet), but I tend to stay home because I have limited energy, and it can take a single difficult 'helper' to suck up all the energy I had for that outing. Just contemplating all the steps I'll have to take, and all the things that have to go right, and all the people I'll have to interact with, can be quite literally exhausting - and make the trip not worth it.

I'd still call her on it (unless I happened to be a driver who really needed the job), but I'd try to have compassion.

Moose said...

I'd like to point out that if she were abled her behaviour would still be out of line.

We shouldn't cut slack to someone just because they're disabled. Being disabled doesn't give you the right to treat anyone badly, whether caregiver, assistant, or random person on the street.

Sometimes I think the whole universe needs reminders about how to treat others with politeness and respect.

Anonymous said...

here! here! here! Dave, as they say in the houses of parliament.

wheeliecrone said...

Oh, how right you are, Dave.
I am very careful about the way I speak to people who support me - my staff.
It is my view that nobody should have to put up with abuse. Nobody. Ever. I don't permit people to abuse me, and I must make sure that I never abuse my staff.
Abuse is a futile management technique. It only works in the short term, and it costs too much in the loss of respect.
Sorry, I know I am preaching to the choir about this, but it is a subject about which I am quite passionate.

Belinda said...

This is so timely. Today, calmly and quietly setting a limit with a hotheaded person and explaining what the consequence of threats and intimidation would be. initially resulted in heated defensiveness and denial. Hours later the person sincerely apologized. Every time we model a better way to deal with frustration and anger and are prepared to follow through on a limit set without rancor, the other person has an opportunity to grow in their own skills and humanity. Driving a person is a little different but not so much really. The woman's yelling must have been distracting and made concentrating on driving difficult, putting other passengers at risk.

"Mike" said...

hey dudes thanks for the GI Pizza and the love.

"Mike" said...

everyone is special
nothing is ordinary

IS said...

I'm out--thank you.