Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Being Three Ways Out

It felt nice being out. I was dressed in layers, in fact so many layers that I looked a bit like the Michelin Tire man, but Tire man or no, I was warm. We had banking to do and were on our way over to the post office to pick up a parcel that was waiting there for us when I decided to stop off, on the way, at the bookstore. I'm reading the first in a series of crime novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen and am loving it. I want to follow up immediately with the next in the series.

Being in the bookstore was a bit weird because it's usually a busy, busy place full of shoppers and book browsers. There's lots of places for people to sit and those spots are usually full of people looking at magazines, texting or talking on their phones and, occasionally, napping. But there were several spots empty and the store felt a bit zombie apocalypse with only a few people around. The clerk I chatted to said that people just weren't coming out into the cold. "Everyone is just weary of it," she said.

I found the book I was looking for and headed over to the cash desk. There was a very short line up so we'd be done quickly. I wanted to veer off and look at some of the home decor stuff so Joe agreed to get into the line and buy the book. There are times that living with someone who isn't an inveterate shopper is a good thing. He'd rather stand in a line than browse any day of the week.

Over by the cards I saw a fellow with Down Syndrome who is a neighbourhood regular. He is usually accompanied by his mother but sometimes, like today, he's with a support staff. I think he bristles at being with a staff when he believes that he can do his shopping perfectly well without a minder. I headed over to say hello, as I always do. I like him, and I like his mom, we've gone from nodding acquaintance stage to the stop and chat stage of stranger relationships.

Just as I was pulling up I heard him say to his staff, "I'm buying the card, not you. This is the one that I want." The staff fellow said, "Do you think it's appropriate?" He put his hands on his hips and said, "She's a little girl who likes trucks, I am getting her a card with trucks on it. You don't have to be a boy to get a card with trucks on it." Then he turned, saw me, smiled and used his thumb to point at the fellow behind him rolling his eyes. I said hello. He showed me the card he'd bought, it was a cute kids card with trucks, all with faces, racing each other to say Happy Birthday. I said, "Nice card."

We chatted a bit, I introduced myself to his staff, who seemed, at that moment to be reacting with hurt to the rejection of his input. I understood, when I was a young staff, it was hard for me to learn, very hard for me to learn, that my opinion wasn't always wanted, welcomed or valued. I wanted to say something encouraging - but there was no entry point to do so.

After a brief chat, we said our goodbyes, and they were on their way. I met up with Joe and I was telling him about this on the way home. I was buoyed up by what I'd seen and heard. There was a time when our opinion ruled, when people did what they were told and when we set the agenda. This was living proof that some things are going right. Here was a guy who knew his own mind, was appropriately assertive, and made his own decisions. Too, here was a young staff who, once his opinion was dismissed, didn't push it and, even more important, didn't punish the disagreement.

It was nice to be out in the fresh air.

It's also nice to be out of the oppressive room in which we provided service for so very long.


FunMumX3 said...

You've got me thinking on this one!!! As a parent, I tread a constant fine line of allowing my daughter (18) to own her needs and wants within the bounds of what is safe (a Mom is a Mom is a Mom, regardless of ability/disability). But society is a harsh taskmaster and there is a fairly constant calibration around behaviour based on what is the acceptable or appropriate thing to do. I truly believe that having a brother and sister have been the best influence on my daughter as far as calibrating her thoughts/actions/behaviour to what is acceptable for her age and the place we live. Simply put, they have knocked the rough edges off her. If she makes a choice that isn't typical for her age group, chances are one of them will say "that's totally weird" or "you're too old for that" in the way siblings do. Kindly. Usually :)

Maybe the birthday girl in question was into trucks and if so, props to your card buyer. But maybe the staff was the voice of society saying, a girl-type card (don't shoot the messenger about why girls get girly princess cards) is more appropriate and will avoid having a group of little party guests secretly roll their eyes and think "that's totally weird". We don't really know do we? But as a society, every interaction causes ALL of us to make minor adjustments to our behaviour, perception, reactions, attitudes and so on, it's just the nature of society. I know that with my daughter, these cues are not always obvious to her so I try to guide and suggest where possible. I'm pretty attuned to what is important to her and what she can let go or modify.

But collective society is about fitting in, right? Do I allow my daughter so sing along to her iPod in a public place with THE most tuneless voice ever? No, I'm setting her up to be a target. Do I encourage her to sing her heart out in the privacy of her own room? You bet.

CapriUni said...

When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend whose mother drove a racing truck... That little girl is also lucky to be living in a time when he, and not his staff, gets to pick the card for her.

The ripples of freedom spread far.

Maggie said...

Speaking as the former 'little girl who likes trucks,' I'm applauding his choice and delighted that he rejected the staff's oh-so-well-meaning critique.

I got cute pink princessy sparkly cards at every birthday, every Christmas, and every other card-receiving occasion. I hated them. The few I treasured were the ones that came from people who actually took the time to know me, to care what I thought, and to buy a card that I would actually enjoy.

SOOOOOO glad the young man is one of those folks.