Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Intruder

It may be a really, even ridiculously, small moment.

But it mattered.

As I've been fat all my life, I've always been aware of my size and the space I take up. As far back as I can remember in school other kids, skinny kids, would press themselves up against the walls in passing me, indicating that there was barely any room to get by me. This was considered very, very, funny. I got the message. I take up too much space. As a result, I am always very aware of space, always alert to where I am and what space is around me - not for me, but for others. I have always felt like an intruder in public space.

This was magnified when I became a wheelchair user. People throw themselves out of my way on sidewalks and pathways even when there's lots of room. I have never been able to figure out if they were simply unable to see the space that was available to them or if they were continuing the commentary that was begun in grade school - continuing to let me know that I take up too much space.

A habit began very young. 

I apologize. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry ...

I explain. There's lot of room, there's lots of room, there's lots of room, there's lots of room ...

I.

Am.

An.

Intruder.

In.

Public.

Space.

A moment - I was just off the little bridge on the boardwalk. I was turned around and looking down into the pond. Marissa and the girls, along with Joe, were lined up along the side of the bridge, also looking into the pond. There were several ducklings swimming about. The girls were captivated. So were the rest of us.

I heard the sound of a bike coming and I looked up and saw a woman several feet from me. Even though there was lots of room, I began to move my chair to create even more. She called out, a smile in her voice, "It's OK, there's lots of room."

Tears sprang to my eyes.

That doesn't happen to me.

9 comments:

CT said...

Oh, lovely. Lovely.

Glee said...

it did :)

theknapper said...

and it can happen again....

Jo Kelly said...

I find this action so offensive. I have had this happen in the workplace, malls, stores - it doesn't seem to matter where I am. I think in some cases people think they are being funny. I almost filed a grievance against a fellow employee who did this to me on a regular basis - in 12 foot wide hallways. Not funny pal. It makes me feel so .... uninvited.

Granted, there may be times when the space is limited but I don't take up a whole great deal of room - my chair is barely 24" wide. So even in the smallest of spaces there's usually lots of room. It makes me feel as if people don't want to get too close - lest they touch me and catch something! Horrors! LOL

I like to do the same thing to the bi-peds I meet during my day - let's see how they like it. Especially when I see someone going out of their way to get out of my way (they perceive they are in my way, but they're not) then I go out of my way to get as far away from them as possible. I wonder what would happen if I turned the table on them and came right up beside them - ha! Want to see someone squirm with discomfort.....

Andrea S. said...

My heart hurts reading this.

Kristine said...

Wow, I'm taking some karmic credit on this one! :) The other day, I smiled and said the exact same sentence to a larger woman in a wheelchair, who was trying to move over and give me more space to get on the public bus. "It's OK, there's plenty of space." It was a completely natural thing to say, something I say all the time to people who think my own chair is going to require more space than it does. I wouldn't have even thought about it for another second, except that the moment reminded me of all the times you've written here about comfort levels in taking up public space. And I thought, "I hope someone out there is saying the same thing to Dave."

As a smaller(ish) wheelchair user, people seem to feel very comfortable telling me how bothered they are by overweight people in wheelchairs. They feel justified in diagnosing a stranger on the street, "She wouldn't need that chair if she weren't so fat." They expect me to laugh, to chime in, to be on their side. It's just like when I'm expected to laugh at a racist joke, because I'm a fellow white person. But my friends are disappointed, because I won't give them the response they're hoping for...

Anonymous said...

Or parents who yank their kids away, even when the poor child wasn't in the way. Hey Mom, I'm not going to run down your kid, okay?

And when my wheelchair is on one side of the hallway, there are the people who insist on squeezing through the narrow side, instead of going where there is plenty of room.
Sharon

Jo Kelly said...

Anonymous - that's where it all begins - with that action that many parents will do with their children - it teaches the child to be afraid of us - BAD! Don't Touch!

I truly enjoy speaking to the children regardless of the actions of the parents - or just giving them a quick wink and a smile. I hope that negates some of the damage they are unknowingly doing to their child's attitude toward disability.

Down Wit Dat said...

xox