Thursday, February 13, 2014

Apologizing for Nice, Angered at Accountability

We were with a few friends out for tea and one of them joked, "Read Dave's blog for a week and you'll read about doors or toilets." "Another added in," in the spirit of good fun, "and shopping, don't forget shopping."

HA HA, yeah nice getting together with you all too!

I admit that there are themes which run through blogs that focus on any one particular topics. Like I'll bet science blogs focus, occasionally, on, um, sciencey things. But I agree with my friends that topics that are mundane for those without disabilities are often the subject of harrowing stories and outrageous tales. Doors and toilets indeed.

This is all by the way of telling you that I'm aware of these as part of the tapestry of this blog and even so, I'm going to do it again. A door story.

I was entering a store alone, as Joe was off getting money at the bank machine, and had gotten easily through the first set of doors. I noticed a woman, racing, really racing, from the counter inside to get to the second door. As it took me a few minutes to pull open the outer door, realign my chair for entry, and then go through, she got there first. She was inside the narrow space between outer and inner doors and I was now stuck. She was a woman of some size and she stood with her back to the wall, holding the door open for me. The problem was I simply couldn't get my chair around the door which was at such an angle that straight entry was impossible.

I smiled at her and said, "You know what would help?" She asked eagerly what she could do, and I responded nicely, "It would really help if you didn't help." She grinned and said that made sense. I took the door from her, held it open as she left and then entered the store. That was all fine. I went shopping.

I found what I wanted, purchased it from the woman who had attempted to help me, we laughed about the incident. It was all very friendly.

On my way out the store manager approached me an apologized for her employees behaviour. I was baffled, she'd done nothing wrong. As the manager talked I could see that what she was doing was apologizing for her employees weight. Now, I'm not a physicist (what do they do?) but the set up of the entry is such that there is no room for anyone to stand behind the door and allow straight entry. No one is that skinny. She's apologizing to a fat guy for a chubby woman's size!!

Her point, when she got around to it, was that the store wanted to be welcoming to people with disabilities so that's what her, um, large employee (she loved saying that) was so eager to help. I smiled and said, "So as the store manager you want to create a welcoming atmosphere for people with disabilities?"

"That's exactly it!" she said.

"Well, then, why don't you simply install automatic door openers so people with disabilities can enter entirely without the thought of help from another?THAT would be welcoming."

She spluttered something unintelligible so I said, "It seems to me that your, um, large employee, was simply trying to personally make up for a structural barrier that should never have been there in the first place. I say, 'good on her.'This is a fairly new store, was it you, as manager, that made the decision to make access difficult? Someone had to have decided to not install accessible doors."

"I was just trying to be nice, you don't have to be so aggressive." She said and turned to walk away.

Now, I hadn't been aggressive, I was calm and conversational. I think she was annoyed because I refused to join her in fat-bashing 'her employee' and she had brought up the idea of the 'welcoming atmosphere.' I watched her retreating back as she strode into the store.

Sometimes, really, sometimes, advocacy is kind of fun.


clairesmum said...

oh dear...i don't know whether to laugh or cry! you paint a vivid picture with your words, Dave. thanks for sharing.

Maggie said...

Ouch. I can see myself in the woman who turned away.

I haven't been in precisely that position, never having served as 'the manager' and never having worked in retail.

But I've been the one to respond huffily to calm and appropriate critique. If it had been me, my brusque defensiveness, my turning away, would have been an expression of my guilt.

If it had been me, I would suddenly have been brought to see that I had never 'decided' not to install automatic door openers - I had never even thought of them. I had never 'decided' to make the store inaccessible - I had merely assumed that everyone who came in would be a walkie-talkie. You know, 'like me.'

And I would have felt dreadfully guilty when I saw that.

I hope when her guilt simmers down she at least arranges for one set of doors to be automated. That's what I would be doing, a day or two later, if it had been me.

Princeton Posse said...

Never a dull moment Dave!

Jo Kelly said...

They always react that way when they know you are right! But YOU have a CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER!!