Thursday, December 31, 2015

Turning Down An Unwanted Gift

Image description: 5 word bubbles sayin: no thanks, no, uh, nope, no.

We had finished our shopping and, as is our habit, I left Joe to go through the line and pay for the groceries while I headed over to a small shop to buy the week's lottery tickets. It costs exactly 14 dollars to buy one of each of the tickets for the draws which occur through the week. Added to this I picked up a couple of 'scratch and lose' tickets as well.

There was a new fellow working at the desk and his nervousness showed when it came to figuring out the cost. He counted it out in his head and then, after bagging the tickets, he pulled them out and did it again on the computer. He apologized, I told him I was in no hurry.

Once he was sure of the price and I'd paid him. I took the bag from the counter. A fellow, just a couple years younger than me, was standing off to my right. He had been politely waiting, and I nodded a thanks to him when he stepped back a bit to allow me to move the scooter.

Then out of nowhere ...

Because of course people feel free to make comment on people with disabilities who dare to be out in public ...

Because our lives are invitation for intrusion ...

Because difference is a magnet for inappropriateness ...

He said to me, indicating with a glance the bag I held in my hand, "Do you ever think about how easy it would be for someone to rob you. I could grab that bag and be gone into the subway, you'd never catch me."

I didn't know then and don't know now what the appropriate response to that should be. No witty rejoinder comes to mind.

 Of course I know I am more vulnerable than others. I know it personally because I feel it deeply. I know it statistically because I am aware of the research on crimes against people with disabilities. I know it. Everyone with a disability knows it.

But, of course, I don't feel vulnerable all the time. I wasn't feeling vulnerable until he spoke. I was feeling safe, in a store I knew, following a routine I've done a hundred times or more.

You may be wondering what I said to him. I said nothing. That's right nothing. I just stared at him. Like really stared. I wanted to really see him. This ordinary looking man, in ordinary looking clothing, doing an ordinary task, who felt he could be extraordinarily cruel to a stranger, who was he? My stare made him uncomfortable so to deal with it, he asked me again, this time laughing like he'd made a joke. My stare didn't waver, my lips didn't smile. He broke the moment by stepping forward and asking to buy some lottery tickets.

I backed out of the store.

On the way home I told Joe about what happened and then, I paid attention. By the time I got home I can say definitely that not once on the trip back did I feel especially vulnerable. That man's words stayed with him, they didn't come with me. He didn't manage to 'freak me out' as I would have said many years ago. He didn't manage to make me feel fear. I had managed to reject his gift of anxiety.

I may be vulnerable in many ways, but apparently no longer to the bullshit of strangers.

12 comments:

Glee said...

Onya Dave :)

Anonymous said...

People really need to think things out before they say things. Having a hard time understanding people lately

-KR

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I propose the 'Dave stare' as the future response to ALL inappropriate comments from strangers (unless for some reason you choose to answer).

It is to represent, "I can't believe this person just said that."

Maybe we can start a movement.

clairesmum said...

Excellent!! I'm so glad that you didn't 'catch' his anxiety, or his cruelty, and turn them inward onto yourself...or even have to struggle to 'throw away' his unwelcome 'gifts.'

Anonymous said...

The only good answer I can think of is on the order of "If you did that, you'd really be a prize @$$h*ole, and even saying it is borderline IMHO." So I'm ready to join the Dave Stare Movement too! Thanks for sharing your perspective...you always cut right to the heart of real. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I was having a conversation with my new roomie who I genuinely like, in sharing my apartment with people like them is not always a given but she is full of awesome. We were talking last week. I don't remember how it came up but in the course of conversation it came up how I always feel like an easy target and she said, with a great deal of conviction you know I am sure that's true but I also think woman who live alone are targets too. I never thought about that really. It's true I think. The coolest thing about this young woman in my book and I mention it here because I know you and your readers will get this Dave, is that when she first moved in, I wasn't sure it would work because she didn't seem to get the person first language that I strive to use in my work and in my peer group until I know someone well enough to know how the feel. I had mentioned it to family and friends briefly and we kind of chuckled that maybe if I just used it she might get it at least around me. I am not the language police so in a roommate situation I don't feel I need to correct another adults behavior but as time went on and we talked more and learned about each other I realized that she is one of the most accepting people I have ever met. There's just so much more to it then always getting the words right and I learned a lesson. :)

h smith said...

Arent you driving around in large, metal, motorised vehicles that can crush idiots like him if you choose? Did he not notice that? I'd have no issues with ramming my powerchair into anyone who tried to steal from me while I was in it, or with screaming blue murder to alert everyone to the low life stealing from the cripple and running into the subway..

Anonymous said...

Good Lord, the man was probably expressing concern that you hadn't secured a package, and you had left yourself open as an easy target for a thief.

You have a knack for taking the friendly concern of a stranger and turning it into an insult.

If someone's knapsack is gaping open in a bank line, the same observation is made a hundred times a day.

You can take the kindness of a stranger and turn it into complete bullshit.... to use your wording.

Anonymous said...

Dave, did you intend to let a particularly bizarre comment go through on this post?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon, thanks I've removed it.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon, thanks I've removed it.

Anonymous said...

My therapist gave me a good line for times like that. You stare at the person really hard and say in a very shocked voice, 'why in the world would you ever think that was an appropriate thing to say?'