Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Doors, Voice and Frustration

I'd like to describe two incidents to you and then chat a bit about what happened. So let me take you on the journey of one day of being out while in a wheelchair.

First, we had gone into a grocery store to get something that we wanted to make for supper. They didn't have it, I pouted a bit because it's what I wanted, then suggested to Joe we go to the grocery store we usually go to, even though it's further away, because I knew they had it there. He was totally good with that because, well, he was pouting too. He took the cart back and I followed. I stopped on the way and found some chocolate covered, maple peanuts boxed as Canadian Bear Poo. What a find! We're giving the girls each a stuffed Paddington Bear and thought this a perfect accompanying gift. Joe said he'd take it through the checkout line. I said I'd go ahead over to the other store to get what we needed and he could meet me there.

I got to the store, hit the button for the doors to open. I like this mall because when you push the button both the large doors open and entry is really easy. I come in and a fellow, in his twenties, sees me and holds open both doors. The problem is that the only way to do that is to stand between them and hold them open with both arms. He had ear buds in he couldn't hear me saying, "Could you just push the button please." He's glaring at me because I'm not going through. I can't go through because, obviously, he's right in my way. I'd have to go through him to get through the door because he's standing right in the way. The doors are open but he's in the middle. Finally a woman, closer to my age, comes under his right arm, walks around the door and pushes the button, the doors open wider, freeing him, and he, gives me one more glare and stomps off. I go in the building. Frustration built up inside me to the point that I was almost drowning in it. But I was in, I distracted myself with doing what I was there for.

Advance about an hour.

I am crossing the street, at a light. As I approach the curb a woman begins the back and forth dance - the one that indicates she doesn't know where to stand that would be best for me and as a result she's stepping forward then back. I don't need to do anything because I'm turning and crossing the road, as she is set to do, therefore won't come anywhere near her. When I get close to her I say, rudely, "Settle yourself, I'm turning here too." She said, breathlessly, "I just wanted to make sure you had the room you needed."

We waited for the light.

I had this feeling that I'd just been an asshole. I was rude to her and didn't need to be. Just before the light changed I turned to her and said, "I think I was rude, I didn't mean to be, I just didn't need you to move for me, I should have spoken more kindly." She, again, smiled and said, "Really, I just wanted to ensure you had the space you needed." I said, "I know."

I don't want to turn rude. I don't want to turn into what others would think is a bitter cripple. It's just that I get frustrated, really frustrated with interacting with people helping me, particularly when help, as it often does, actually is a barrier to me getting where I want to go, getting done what I want to do. Sometimes the frustration with one situation will come out in the next situation. I have to try and ensure that I have more control, to make each interaction the first interaction, start fresh every time I approach a situation.

But, I'm finding that hard.

Does anyone else?


Glee said...


imfunnytoo said...

All the time. And I am not sweet. I have a temper, so I tend to get In trouble more often,

Laura said...

Yes all the time!!

Anonymous said...

It's often an unrelated straw that breaks the camel's back. Welcome to the human race!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Sometimes I simply want to scream. And I hate to be touched. But sometimes a hug is very welcome by me and this is so hard to understand for my friends.

I try not to be snappish but sometimes I am.


Antonia Lederhos Chandler said...

I'm hearing that people who are faced with a new situation (someone in a wheelchair), and want to do the right thing -- to make the right moves -- can become an inconvenience, rather than an unasked-for source of help.

It must get very tiresome to be the designated, default educator of one after another of these people, whether or not their heart is in the right place.

Moz Downunder said...

Very much!

Even at the trivial "is that really a disability?" level I'm at... I have dietary restrictions of the "not an allergy but not pleasant" so I spend way too much time at dinner parties etc saying "no, really, I'd rather not eat that, please stop badgering me about it". Unfortunately at times that means I end up eating nothing at all, or just the finger food. Which really, really conflicts with the picture some people have of being a good host. They'd rather I left in tears than see me not eat anything. Or I eat something and then 20 minutes later rush to the toilet because my bum decides to participate in the conversation with some strong views on the advisability of eating it.

I've been on the other end... I was in a park and watched someone in an electric wheelchair get stuck on a little plank bridge over a decorative stream. So I wandered over and instead of reading the A3 card with big letters saying essential "I can't talk, just push my chair off whatever it's stuck on" I spent a couple of minutes trying to communicate with someone who had barely enough dexterity to operate a joystick. I am sure he would have punched me if he could.

Anonymous said...

My view is that unfortunately society does not know how to interact with individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities either get overlooked, or treated differently then non disabled people. People need to treat individuals with disabilities the same way that they treat people who are not. Asking someone if you can open a door should just be a natural approach. it is the responsibility of both individuals to communicate their needs and expectations and not make assumptions.
One day we will hopefully be in a world that accepts and understands the uniqueness of others and provides an environment that is barrier free for all.

Kristine said...

Of course, we all struggle with it sometimes. I decided when I was a kid that I never wanted to be THAT disabled lady. And most of the time, I'm not, and you're not. But I understand how THAT bitter, unpleasant lady got to be the way she is. And I have moments, which I'm not proud of, when I hear her coming out of my own mouth. Often, unfortunately, to the people who deserved it the least!

It's ok to be human and mess up. Especially when we have the awareness and humility to quickly realize it and apologize.

B. said...

Yes. Out there in the great big world, it's just like that. Enjoyed the comments too. Thanks Dave and commenters.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Just the other day some lady wouldn't accept "Please don't, You frightened me" and walked away saying that SHE didn't need the abuse. I HATE it when people reach over me to "help" without asking if I need it.

To anyone who wonders when and if it is ok to help — it is ALWAYS ok to ASK if someone would like help. And please accept it if I say "no".


Anonymous said...

Moz -

I am sorry you experience food intollerances and am sorry this may sound argumentative but regarding your note on the gentleman crossing the bridge...

Communication and verbal speech are not the same thing and the physical ability to use a joystick has nothing to do with the ability to communicate, nor the choice about what modalities (communication device for example) to take along on a trip to the park, nor the decision about how much sometimes limited energy to expend in what aspects of one's day. I can't speak for the person you met on the bridge but most of us would prefer that people err on the side of trying to communicate with one another, respectfully, rather than skipping that step. I wouldn't assume that someone's reaction to you talking with them then helping them in a way that they have directed (the note card you mentioned) would be to hurt you. Nor would I assume that if the person wanted to react to you in a certain way that he wouldn't be able to do so based on your assumption of his ability. If the gentleman was able to be independently mobile in a park and able to self-direct people around him on ways to assist him he probably deserves that if we are going to make assumptions our assumptions would be that he IS capable...but I would say the same if the person needed assistance to be mobile or needed company at the park or needed assistance to direct others on how to help him... still * capable*.

Anonymous said...

I would have probably motioned for the guy to remove his ear buds. Then say your request again. That situation required a response as the fellow was negatively engaging you. Using gestures (polite ones, ha ha) are another way to communicate. Approach the ear bud crowd like the hearing impaired, as that what they are.

I probably would have ignored the woman. Her actions were her problem. I didn't need the space, didn't ask for the space, and didn't put any pressure on her. I probably wouldn't have interacted, unless she interacted with me. Why "poke the bear with a stick". Other folks ignorance and panic are not my problem.

wheeliecrone said...

I get quite tired of having to educate people who apparently have never previously interacted with a person with a disability.
I try very hard to behave in a cordial and pleasant manner towards these "newbies", but it isn't easy.