Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sorry Unexpected

Image Description: A closeup of a computer keyboard with black buttons on a grey background, the key above the 'shift' button is red with white letters reading 'Sorry'
I was in the small pharmacy across the way, doing some shopping and picking up some medications. The scooter I am using does not have the turning ability that my chair (sob sob) does so I can't get into the line up, so I wait for Joe by looking around the part of the shop that is still accessible to me.

I was just turning the scooter around when a woman, with her little white medications bag, came from the direction of the pharmacist. She had to wait a moment, then when it was clear, I stopped and indicated that she could step by. She thanked me, I thanked her. I then headed over to the deeply discounted stuff from the holidays to see if there was anything of interest.

I found a few things which didn't surprise Joe when he found me. We went together to one of the tills, with the shorter line, and then, on arrival, discovered that the line was shorter because of the 'this till is closed' sign on the desk. Joe said he'd go back to one of the two still operating and I could go out here. I was a good suggesting because the was the store is configured when those two tills are working there is really no room for me to get through.

The woman that I had stopped for was standing there, the last customer through before the till closed, and as there was lots of room, I passed behind her. I was just about by when she finished she turned and saw me, she laughed and said, in a very light tone, "Why you are just in the way all the time." I looked up at her, saw the twinkle in her eye and said, "That's me, just constantly in the way." We both laughed.

Now many of you who read me regularly know that I, like many disabled people, don't like the feeling of being in the way and I have had to fight my own internal demons in order to feel that I have an equal right to personal space. However, I recognized that this was just good hearted joshing, and it was exactly the same kind of thing that was said to me before disability. It wasn't a disability thing - I engage my mantra here: don't give to disability what doesn't belong to disability.

As Joe was in the line up, I pulled over to the side to wait for him. A good few minutes later, enough time for her to walk away a bit and then walk back, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see the woman who had been joking with me. I was surprised but I could tell that she had something to say, "I'm sorry to bother you," she said, "but I thought about it after I left, I imagine that people often make remarks about you being in the way. You must be really tired of it. I know what that's like. I should have thought before I spoke."

I told her that people do make me feel like I am in the way, but that she hadn't. I could tell she was only joking and it didn't bother me.

She said, "That's my point. The first part of that phrase is 'This time it didn't bother me.' I came back because I wanted to say I'm sorry. I was only trying to be friendly."

"That's how I took it."

She smiled again and left.

You know the reason she was trying to be friendly ... because she is.


clairesmum said...

her phrase "I know what's that like" is perhaps the key to her awareness of the feelings of others. Being without your chair adds a little challenge to your days, I imagine - how lovely that she lightened your day instead of darkening it.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

If no other people did the same thing with the exasperation that normal people treat, well, everything that inconveniences them with, this little exchange would have caused neither of you pause, and would have been just a friendly moment.

Which is what she intended.

Except that the rest of the world has already set you up to feel 'in the way.'

"Shall we dance?" "Fancy meeting you here - again." "People are starting to talk." "We can't keep meeting like this." All of these phrases might have come out of her mouth, too - and have been completely inoffensive.

Her intentions were good, but brains pick the most appropriate thing out of their store of phrases for these moments, and she wished she hadn't used the one she did.

I think that was a lovely interaction.