We were in line up to purchase a few items. As Joe and I were chatting, I didn't notice the clerk in any real way. I heard her voice as she and the woman in front of us were talking and laughing about something. When it was our turn, Joe emptied our bag onto the counter and I moved round to be out of the way of those wanting to get by. It was then that I noticed that she had a disability. One arm was quite a bit shorter than the other and the hand on that arm was unusually shaped. I noted it without thinking much about it at all. Disability, difference, big deal.
The clerk was expert at using just one hand. She'd clearly had lots of practise and did everything with ease. Then something slipped out of the hand she was using and she caught it with the other hand. She looked up at Joe a bit of fear in her eyes, and apologised. Joe just shrugged his shoulders and told her it was no problem. The woman behind us, noticed, I think for the first time - the arm and hand that were different. She then quietly pulled away and went to another teller. I noticed. Joe noticed. The clerk noticed.
I saw Joe lean forward and whisper something to her, she laughed.
I asked him later what he'd said, "I said, 'Screw her! And her little dog too!!'"
The woman who walked away. I wonder if she thinks about what she did. I wonder if she thinks of it as any form of prejudice or bigotry. I'm guessing not. I think that people with disabilities are still far away from having legitimate minority status. Far away from having words like 'ableism' or 'disphobia' understood as terms denoting our experience of prejudice. People don't have to challenge their behaviour because the, as of yet, have no name for it. Racism and sexism and homophobia exists to describe but also to challenge. People can stop and ask ... Am I that?
The woman who was clerking, had she been taught or told or made as a condition of employment to use only the one hand. The other was perfectly functional, we'd seen that. Why was there fear in her eyes.
I think I know, what do you think?