Monday, July 29, 2013

And The Truth Shall ... Well, Maybe Not

I don't want to sound ungrateful.

I don't want to seem unmannerly.

I don't want to strike you as unappreciative.

But I want to tell the truth.

I'd like a day where I didn't have to say 'thank you, thank you so very much.'

I'd like a day where I didn't have to overtly show my gratitude.

I'd like a day where I didn't have to carry the burden of gratefulness.

But I'm afraid to tell the truth.

I was brought up to say 'yes, please.'

I was brought up to say 'no, thank you.'

I was brought up to show gratitude for what was given.

But truth is bursting inside of me, it will out.

Today I said 'thank you' to a clerk who moved a trolley, of stuff to be put on the shelf, dead centre of an aisle that I needed to go down. Others, those who walk, shifted to the side and went on their way. Silent. Not at all grateful for the ease of their passageway. Me? I waited for the clerk to come, labouriously unlock the wheels, and push the cart away. Then they looked and waited, for the gratitude to flow. And I said 'thank you' I like saying 'thank you' I like showing appreciation. But it was the thousandth time I've had to do that. I want to pass in silence. I want to simply go in and out. I simply want to do what others do, they take for granted, I take with gratitude.

Today I said 'thank you' to one in a stream of people who stopped to let me use the ramp. The ramp is right by three stairs. The ramp takes up about a quarter of the space - the stairs are wide an inviting. But everyone wants the ramp. Some run up it. Some jump in front of me, not wanting to slow their pace, not wanting to take the stairs. Some simply are oblivious to me, with no option, waiting for a break in the stream of people. When someone finally stops to give me passageway, they look at me, expectantly, and I say 'thank you, thank you very much.' And I do mean it. I really do. But sometimes I want to simply go up the ramp that was made for access. Sometimes I want the one option for me to actually be an option for me. Sometimes I want to silently ascend.

Today I said 'thank you' to a group of people standing and talking on a sidewalk. They stood, confident in their privilege to take up as much space as they want. They left a bare minimum of space along side. Others, those who didn't need extra space just slid along side. I couldn't. I stopped. I waited. I began to ask them to move, I was shushed. SHUSHED. I waited until the woman with the finger up, teacher to unruly student, master to servant, nobility to nobody, finished what she was saying. Then she looked at me, granting permission to speak. I asked them to move over so I could get by. They did. Waiting with eyes that waited for a signal, a sign, of my gratefulness. I said 'thank you' but I didn't mean it. But it didn't matter if it was meant. Some people are completely comfortable with the forced gratitude of the lesser - it's like oil to the flame of superiority.

I want to tell the truth.

I'd like a day where I could have gratefulness in my heart but not constantly on my lips.

I'd like a day where I could silently accept the gift of access, silently make my way in and out, down and through, across and over.

I'd like a day where I could feel what people feel when they simply expect to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, have what they expect to have.

Yes, I'd like a day like that.

Just one would do.

A vacation from the expectation that I live for the gratification of the needs of others to profit, in any way, from my needs.

I've told the truth.

But, oddly, it hasn't set me free.


Kristine said...

She shushed you?? That's so extremely rude! I wouldn't have thanked that one. The other situations, I would have said thank you, some more begrudgingly than others. But I'm not sure I could have thanked the shusher!

(Just for the sake of clarification, I don't mean in the slightest that I'd handle any situation "better" than you. I wasn't there. Maybe I'd have done exactly what you did, or maybe I'd have wished I did what you did. This is just my reflexive thought after reading the story.:)

I have learned to be just a little more careful with giving away my "thank yous." I freely thank people who do any favor, big or small, for me. But there are situations that do NOT deserve thanks... Like last week, I met a woman who decided within the first minute of conversation that she should tell me, "Well, your mind seems to work just fine!" I could taste the "thank you" on the tip of my tongue, because that's what was expected, and I wasn't sure what a better response was. But I swallowed the thanks, and instead just shrugged awkwardly and looked away for a moment, before changing the subject. I still don't know what the right way to respond to such a rude comment was, but I was relieved that I didn't accidentally thank her!

Defying Gravity said...

Yes, that must be exhausting. I wish I knew a solution, but I can't think of one, short of compulsory re education! I always seem to get stuck holding the door open or stepping aside to let people past, and I do sometimes say thanks sarcastically when a stream of people just rush past without even acknowledging that I'm standing aside for them. But that's not your situation, nor a good tactic! And I agree the shushing woman was very rude indeed.

Anonymous said...

What a timely (for me) entry to the blog. I was just telling someone recently how tiring it is to always have to be the one asking for assistance, and then to be grateful. And it's not that I don't feel grateful, but sometimes I just wish that I was going about my business, gratitude-free, just doing what I want to do, without aid.

Anonymous said...

I know that to many this will sound rude but I wish you had a small button on your wheelchair that you could push--like a "beep beep" the way any driver of a car could to clear the way. This is especially true when you really do have the "right of way" like on the ramp. Truth be told I am really picturing you "beep beeping" the shush woman!

Anonymous said...

I want to be able to take basic access for granted, and not have that surge of panicked adrenaline when I don't.

The constant expectation that I have to thank EVERYONE for EVERYTHING is exhausting. Have started dialling down on thanks. I feel like I'm saying - `thank you for allowing me to exist'. :-(

Jan Goldfield said...

Want one more degree of invisibility and ignoring? Be female.
I no longer thank anyone who gets out of the way. I use my horn and wish I could make it louder. Maybe an air horn??

Jeannette said...

A very wise man named Dave Hingsburger has been trying to teach me that I do not have to accept things like being shushed, especially not by a perfect stranger who is rudely blocking everyone's path.
I'm still learning. I'm still meek and mild. But not quite so much as I used to be.
Thank you, Dave.

Sasha Smithy said...

I agree with SO much of this post. Often times I've gotten to the point where I both refuse to ask and I refuse to say thank you. Doing this while being a girl in a wheelchair has meant that I'm quickly labeled as a bitch. If something's in my way that's not in any able-bodied person's way, I don't ask. I say, 'this needs to be moved' and about half the time I don't thank them. I try to thank people when they seem sincere, when they've realized they've fucked up or that something is definitely wrong with what they've been doing.

Saying thank you has power. I do my best not to give it to people who already think I am powerless. Of course, I can't say that I do this everyday, there's a lot of days when I don't want to cause a fuss, or I'm with someone whose not up for disability activism time and I'm silent.

But ultimately my belief is this. If an able-bodied person doesn't have to ask. Then neither should I. If an able-bodied person wouldn't have to say thank you, then neither should I. I am not lesser and I refuse to let people treat me as such. Crippled bitch and proud of it.

theknapper said...

I think there is power in saying the unspoken/not polite stuff....Would be great if you could immediately feel the release of the words and feelings leaving you and going to the ears/eyes of I sounding too west coasty???!!!

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

We shouldn't have to constantly thank people for doing the right thing. We can appreciate them, extend them courtesies, and treat them well. But doing the right thing -- like sharing space on a sidewalk -- is about justice, not charity.

Your post echoes so many of the things I've been pondering lately. As soon as I read it, I felt energized to start putting these issues into words. Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

oh dear. I'm thinking, noticing that when I do something to help out I also make eye contact and smile in a way that may be eliciting thank yous. It feels like over compensating when I do it and now I can see the potential ill effects. Here's a challenge- how to play my part in increasing accessibility WITHOUT eliciting thank yous. Gonna think hard about this.

Anonymous said...

Anon 16:32, I love your point about trying NOT elicit thank you's. I had a situation a while back where I was thanked for moving out of someone's way, and it made me really uncomfortable. (I thought about writing to Dave about it to ask for advice, but never did.) At the time, I tried to make it look like I hadn't even noticed the person and was simply moving on in the direction I needed to go, but I clearly didn't fake it well enough. There's got to be some other way to be polite and civil without playing this power game...

Andrea S. said...

To "Anonymous" at 16:32 pm:

Perhaps try saying "Have a nice day!"--some pleasant greeting that should trigger something similarly pleasant (that isn't thank you) in the other person's social script. So you can both be friendly without one having to thank the other or seeming to solicit a thanks. Or if they do say thanks, now they'll be saying "thanks" for you wishing them a good day and not just for holding the door open or whatever.

Moose said...

If someone shushed me while I was trying to get them to move out of my way, I would just run them over. You wanna be rude? I can be ruder. OK, maybe I wouldn't really run them over. But if I say, "Excuse me," and your response is to shush me and hold up a finger like you're talking to a toddler, I'm going to raise my voice and say, "GET OUT OF MY WAY. NOW!"

I'm sure they'd then talk forever about the rude crippled lady who yelled at them while they were just having a conversation, continuing to be oblivious to the fact that the world doesn't rotate around them.

My mother raised me to be polite to others, but also said that you don't have to suffer fools. You start by assuming they're good and nice people, and if they're jackasses you don't have to be a doormat.

Glee said...

hear hear Dave. Just what I would do Moose! pfft to shush