Monday, May 25, 2015

Sunny, Sunny, Day

Photo description: A sunflower in a meadow looks to wards the sun.
I am sitting in the sun, reading a book. I am parked, in my wheelchair, at the edge of the sidewalk, to catch the rays. Joe is seated beside me. Behind us is a laundromat where Joe has got clothes washing. My wheelchair is locked. I am firmly in place. My hands hold the book I am reading. Joe, beside me, sitting on a florescent orange chair borrowed from the laundromat, is checking emails on the phone. It's Sunday. The pace is slow.

I feel him coming, I don't know where this sense comes from, I didn't have it when I was non-disabled, but it's true, I can actually feel him coming. I look up from my book and over to him. He's heading straight for me. I don't want intrusion or interruption so I telegraph that to him by going back to reading my book. Though I am reading, I know he is still coming. I am sitting, in the sun, in a locked wheelchair, reading a book, beside someone who is also sitting and engaged in reading an email.

He arrives.

"Do you need help?" he asks.

I look at him. "No, I don't, thanks," I say. I want him to just go away. I don't want to educate or enlighten him. I don't want to engage with him at all. I want ... I want ...

I want to sit in the sun, in my wheelchair, and read my book.

To his credit, when I politely refused his help, he smiled, nodded and went on his way.

I told myself, because I now had to stop reading and deal with the interaction, that he meant well and that I didn't want to punish him for a gesture meant in kindness.

I went back to reading.

But I couldn't.

I realized that if I looked helpless and in desperate need for help, from a stranger, when I was sitting, in the sun, in a locked wheelchair, reading a book beside someone who was obviously with me and capable of helping if help was needed, I would never, ever, ever, ever, be safe from the intrusion and the interruption, caused by strangers thrusting offers of help into my day. That I would never be anything but an object to these people.

An object that has only one purpose, to take help.

I was not a person, sitting in the sun, in a locked wheelchair, reading a book. I was an object awaiting the kindness of a stranger in order to continue my day. I was an object that simply waited, Waited for help. That's was I was. No, that's wrong, there is no 'I' here. 'I' don't exist. It does.

It does.

The thing that waits in the sun for help.

The thing that doesn't read, that doesn't enjoy quietly sitting in the sun, that isn't attached to the person sitting next to it.

"What did he think you needed help to do?" Joe asked, looking up from his email.

"Exist," I said.


liebjabberings said...

You need to write the For Dummies Guide to How to Interact with Disabled People!

This chapter could be entitled, 'If you wouldn't go up to a total stranger and ask if he needs help, don't do it if the stranger is in a wheelchair, sitting reading a book in the sun, EITHER.'

And illustrated guide would be even nicer.

With volumes and volumes to come, it could be a franchise like the Chicken Soup books!

Not entirely being facetious here, Dave - there's money in them books.


Utter Randomness said...

People get so mad when you don't let them help too, especially when you don't need it. I refuse to be someone's good deed for the day. It's absolutely ridiculous that someone asked you if you needed help in that situation, believable, but ridiculous.
Personally, my latest "help" pet peeve is people who throw themselves in front of my wheelchair to open the door for me. Almost running people over is not helpful for me. I really don't like it, and you'd think people would know better than to jump out in front of a motorized vehicle anyways.

Kristine said...

These are the kind of completely nonsensical interactions that my brain doesn't even know how to compute, so my first mental reaction is usually, "Wait, what? I don't know. Should I need help with something? Do they see a need I'm missing?" I'd have probably ended up asking, "Help with what?" And who knows, maybe it would've been amusing to see how he answered...

wheeliecrone said...

Yup. All the time.
But as soon as I actually need help with something?
Something out of my reach in the supermarket, for instance. Why is there no one in sight?

Jenni said...

It's disabled person as 'inspiration porn' isn't it?

The usual version of inspiration porn is like: 'look she's smiling, my life is obvs way better than her's cos I can walk, so I should smile too'. You got a different kind - it's in the sense of 'aren't I (the able-bodied person) inspirational for offering to help the poor vulnerable disabled person?'

I think the answer is that we don't control other people. You could have had a sign which read 'F**k off and leave me alone' and it wouldn't have made any difference. At least he did listen when you told him you didn't need help - that isn't always the case. The thing is, once someone's wearing their 'superman/woman rescuer outfit with real cape' it can be really hard to prise that dratted cape from them. And they don't want you to, cos if you do then they're just an idiot out in public with their underwear on over their trousers!

Anonymous said...

"Why yes, I did need help. I needed a subject for today's blog about inappropriate interactions with the disabled. Thank you for taking care of that."

CapriUni said...

@Sharon -- thanks for the laugh!!