We were in the grocery store getting stuff to make radish stew. It's been cold out and we decided that a nice stew in the slow cooker was a terrific idea. We'd gone early, had breakfast in the store, then set about reviewing the grocery list and assigning tasks. The store is huge and I'm usually given the task of going to the north west corner of the store where they keep some of the frozen 'nature' stuff. We agreed to meet in the produce section after having collected some of the other things on the list.
When I arrived I noticed Joe looking completely frustrated. I rolled up to him and he glanced over at an elderly man and a middle aged woman then said, "I'm having trouble keeping my mouth shut." Over the next few minutes sharing space with the two people he'd indicated to me I came to understand exactly what he meant. So did everyone else in the area.
He used a walker, she was pushing the cart. It became clear that she was a 'helper' and that she was, as Norm and Emma have written about, hell bent on helping. She lectured, that's right, lectured him on everything. He chose this and she thought he should buy that. He stuck to his guns and never capitulated to her constant 'I know better' attitude, but it was clearly wearing. At one point she was telling him that he should use more herbs in his cooking and that the herbs they had in the store were on sale. "I neither want nor need herbs," he said, exasperated but not yet angry. She, however, was growing angry at what she seemed to think was his purposeful non-compliance with her advice.
I don't know how she couldn't have seen the looks on the faces around her. But like many paid care providers, she seemed to think she was invisible in public. I've stressed, often, in my trainings that we are supervised, whenever we are in public, by every single person who sees us. We educate people about how to speak to and interact with those in our care. This woman was a dreadful example of what it is to be in the care providing profession. And, of course, an even worse example of how to speak to and be with someone with a disability.
Like Joe, I had difficulty keeping my mouth shut.
But, I'm glad I did.
Just before we left I heard him say to her, quite gently, "I appreciate you helping me with shopping but let's be clear, you are paid to help me get what I want and what I need. Right now you are at work, I am your employer not your child, I need your help, I don't need your direction."
I felt like cheering.
He may have needed her help but he didn't need ours. She said something to him, quite quietly, something that no one but him heard. He just smiled at her and said, "let's go over and get some bread."