Friday, August 02, 2013

A Tale of Two Women

I believe there at essentially two paths through life. Let me explain:

Joe and I went to a movie in a theatre that has a horrid seating section for wheelchair users. So, I don't use it. I park in the aisle, which is quite wide, beside where Joe sits. We've done that there for over five years. This time, as I was sitting there a woman came in through the entrance way used by disable people. She was a very small woman with a very BIG walker. She made her way up towards me, smiling a greeting. It became quickly evident that there wasn't quite enough room for her to get by. I said, "Hold on, I'll move this way, you go that way, and it should work." Well, it took a bit of moving about but it got sorted quite quickly. She said to me that it was a relief to negotiate space with another person with a disability - "It's nice to just be understood," she said.

She was charming and gracious and graceful.


Today, Joe and I stopped for lunch on the road to Ottawa. We sat in an empty section because it would have been difficult to negotiate through a crowded restaurant. We appreciated the courtesy. Just after we ordered I noticed, through the window, a woman coming in, once again using a very large walker. She entered the restaurant and requested the same area as where we were. She was clearly a regular. The fellow brought her over our way and suddenly they were standing near me. I asked, because I couldn't see, if there was room for them to pass. She said, "No, you take up too much space." She turned to go towards the restaurant. I was trying to move into the space between tables in order to make room, but she was marching, angrily, towards a table in the other section.

She was not charming nor gracious and certainly not graceful.

Two people, one situation, two very different responses. I have come to believe that, often, it's not the situation but the attitude you bring to it. The first woman was willing, and even pleased, to work through to a compromise and find a solution. The second woman went to anger as a default position. She didn't even WANT a solution, she seemed to WANT to be angry.

I'd like to say that I'm more like the first woman but I think I may have 'second woman tendencies.'

Immediately after she left, I realize that life had handed me a lesson.

I hope, I really hope, I learn from it.


Shan said...

Ugh...[Examining myself closely for second-woman tendencies...]

Mary said...

I tend to find that my 'fuse' and my pain levels have a direct inverse correlation. The fuse shortens as the pain increases.

If I'm having a great day, and I'm floating on the drugs I took just before coming out to the theatre to enable me to sit through the whole show, and the distance I've had to walk has been within what I can manage, I'm Woman #1. Feel the fluffy opiate love and hear - whether you want to or not - my loud exclamations of just how wonderful the world and everyone and everything in it is, including the people who are giving me strange looks and I'm grinning and waving just in case I know them.

If, on the other hand, I'm having a less good day... if I'm at the tail end of a dose, or I've sought somewhere to eat because I'm supposed to have my painkillers with food... if I'm gritting my teeth and white-knuckling my walking aid to manage another couple of metres without falling, in the slightly desperate hope that I will be able to sit down within the next thirty seconds...

... at that point I am definitely Woman #2, and if I had the power to destroy with my vicious laser eyeballs all obstacles and people who are, no matter how unintentionally, extending the time until I can plonk my aching backside down on a seat and take my painkillers, you bloody well bet I would.

It happens much less now I have the chair, because I don't feel obliged to force myself beyond my limits. If I get close to my limits, well, I'm already safely sitting down and can pull over to the side to take a short rest, without it being remarked on in the same way as it is if an adult slumps to sit on the floor - or worse, actually falls or faints.

But yeah, I admit that when I'm sore, I'm grouchy, and although I don't cross the line into outright rudeness and insults, I can be rather more abrupt than I would wish to be. Not because I'm a bad person. Not because I have a bad attitude. Just because pain isn't nice, especially when it's steadily increasing to 'desperation' levels.

(Of course there is the possibility that Woman #2 was just a mardy piece of work with no respect for others. And of course, I am sorry you found yourself on the receiving end of yet more hurtful remarks about taking up space. No one deserves that and I don't seek to excuse it - just to admit I've done similar and offer an explanation.)

Anonymous said...

To be patient and friendly in such situations I have to have some energy left. I get snappish and unpatient when tired or in pain...

Altghough most times I at leat try to get a little energy to remain patient.