Sunday, May 12, 2013

Elevating Experience of Communication

I was heading over to meet Joe at the Avis care return near us. He'd taken the car and I was riding over in my power chair. After a week in the old manual, it was awesome to be out, to be independent, to be free to wander. It was a bit difficult navigating the sidewalk because, as it turned out, the southbound subway trains weren't running so people were either walking or lining up in huge bunches to ride shuttle buses. Even so, I had fun.

Around the time when we were supposed to meet, I headed over to our agreed upon point of rendez-vous. I took an elevator down to the level of the mall where we were supposed to meet and when the door opened a woman was there, with her husband, waiting just outside the door. When she saw me, she quickly moved her power chair back and off to the side. Like many people seem to be, even me sometimes, they were surprised that, when the door opened, there was someone wanting off.

I pulled out of the elevator and said to her, as she was smiling at me, "Well, now that I'm out of the way, it's all yours!" She widened her grin, let go of the control, and gave me a big wave. It was a kind of nice, brief, chair-user to chair-user kind of interaction.

Her husband, who hadn't really been part of the equation, not because he was purposely left out but because he had moved over to the other side and my back was to him, shouted to me over my head. "She can't talk since the stroke." Her face, which had been smiling, fell. Just fell. She had communicated to me with ease and effectiveness. No, she hadn't spoken, but that was really quite irrelevant.

I turned slightly to see him and said, "I understood just fine."

When I turned back, she smiled again at me and winked. I said, "I know, they're all a bit like that aren't they?"

She stopped stared at me for just a second and then burst out laughing. I laughed too. Her husband, stood staring at us and then said, "I was just an asshole wasn't I?"

She nodded.

Good communicator that lady.


Anonymous said...

Love it! <3 <3 <3

Colleen said...

Thanks for the laugh!
She is an excellent communicator but the husband got it which says something about him too - teachable, he is teachable.

Tamara said...

Great interaction ... So glad you didn't just let it go. I'm sure that made her day - and helped her teach her husband something important -

And, it made me laugh ... thanks! :-)

Rachel in Idaho said...

Good for you, Dave. I do believe he learned something.

Now, how do I NOT get myself insta-banned if I post my first comment to a blog I lurk at that has a Mother's Day post that includes, among other sad situations, how a guy who lost both legs in the Boston bombing (awful!) can't STAND UP AND HUG HIS MOTHER TODAY FROM THE CONFINES OF HIS WHEELCHAIR? Yes, apparently wheelchair users CAN'T HUG OTHERS and then there's the confined bit. Or do hugs only COUNT if you are STANDING? WTF???

Yes, I'm venting, but I'm PISSED.

Unknown said...

That was great!!!

Andrea S. said...

Rachel in Idaho,
Yeah, I get angry at that kind of rhetoric also.
People also seem to think it is tragic that us deaf people cannot hear people saying they love us. ExCUSE me. No, I don't HEAR it. But I certainly SEE people SIGNING that they love me. And I FEEL their touch when they hug me. And I FEEL their love radiating toward me when I read their words of love in an email. And so on and so forth. Hearing the words is just ONE way to receive someone else's message of love. Just like seeing their words is also just ONE way. There are different ways to communicate. And love feels pretty much the same no matter how it is communicated.

People who assume that there is just one way to hug, or just one way to express love (with or without a hug) make me angry. But I also find it frightening. Because this is exactly the kind of rhetoric that leads to people devaluing the lives of people with disabilities (ie, arrogantly assuming that we have lost quality of life just because we no longer do certain things or experience certain things in the same way that THEY do). And that's the kind of thinking that leads to people assuming that it's better to be dead than disabled :-(.