Monday, March 14, 2016

The Striped Carpet

Image description: Man stepping out of car onto a striped carpet.

(May I ask, before I begin, not to be given advice about my feet, my use of socks, types of shoes or any other helpful hints. I implore you to let me simply assure you that the solution we have found, works.)

There is a difference, I think, or maybe I just tell myself, between being shy and being ashamed. One of those things, for me, has been the fact that I do not, because I can not, wear shoes. That's not quite true, I do make jokes about wearing socks, and about the slippers I wear through winter. I guess it's more about some of the adaptions that not wearing shoes mean. Mostly, I don't like things that needlessly draw attention to me, I guess.

I'm not being clear and it's probably best to just tell you what happened.

I was getting out of the car at a venue where I would be speaking. Joe and I always get places early so that we can get in and get settled. This time we were a little late due to the consequences of a wrong turn. It was rainy and the parking lot was wet, snow covered and with sharp bits of salt tossed into the mix. As I wear socks, this isn't the best thing to step down onto. Joe and I, therefore, have purchased a small mat that we can put on the ground for me to step onto and then turn and sit down into my chair. It's hard to buy a really discrete mat so we have one that's striped, dark blue and dark green.

Joe had just put the mat down and was getting the chair as I was stepping out onto the mat. A woman, who I know and who I know absolutely detests me and the ground that I walk on, came by and turned to stare, with hostility, at me as I got out of the car. I don't like to be watched getting out of a car on a sunny day with dry pavement, I really don't like being watched get onto the carpet. But she stood there. She has let me know that my stances on sexuality and self-advocacy have been 'the death of innocence' for people with disabilities. She gets sent to my training ostensibly as punishment for her but in reality it's punishment for me. Then she said, loudly to be heard, "I'm surprised it's not a red carpet."

I know she was making a remark about my 'ego' and my supposed 'fame' as a speaker. I know that. I know that she was mocking me. But I also know that she was mocking me physically because she hadn't successfully humbled me in a battle of opinions. I know that she was using any weapon she had at hand, and my disability, and my lack of shoes, and my use of carpet seemed a perfect way to goad me.

And she was right.

What she said hurt.

It hurt partly because it was meant to. Purposeful hurt is successful often simply because it's purposeful. It also hurt because she caught me in a vulnerability. That carpet, those socks and the disability that makes it all necessary - these are things I live with, but they aren't things I want called into public view and used for public humiliation.

I turned to her. I said, "You think I should shut up because you don't like my opinions. Well I think you should shut up because you use words to hurt revealing a heart that's simply mean."

She huffed into the building.

And I stepped onto my sat down in my chair raising my feet onto the foot pedals from the, not red, carpet.

I don't get it.

Joe, who had been gobsmacked by the encounter, took hold of the back of the chair and began to push me towards the door. "The next carpet is going to be so fucking red," he said.


leslie sobel said...

I agree with Joe - and what a rude woman!

Frank_V said...

There is a special corner of hell reserved for rude and judgemental people like this lady.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Yes, you should get a red carpet, then make an elaborate and pointedly big deal out of laying it down every time this woman is anywhere near ... even if you're not actually getting out of the car at the time.

Andrea S.

CapriUni said...

As someone else who can not wear shoes, I've also used the carpet solution for getting from car seat to wheelchair seat.

I also vote for Joe's solution. ... And even though you said: "No Advice," may I suggest (?) Get the thing monogrammed -- in gold -- with a great big "D.H." -- Or maybe "D.P." (for Disability Pride).

...And the next time you see this woman, you can tell her: "I took your suggestion -- You're right -- Red is so much better!" And grin like the Cheshire Cat.

I also agree with you about Shame. I define shame as the feeling that something you've done, or something you are, is Wrong. When we've done something hurtful to someone else, being ashamed of ourselves is healthy, because it can stop us from doing it again. But being ashamed of what you are is never healthy.

And "Shame" turns into a verb when we refuse to believe that what we are or what we've done is Wrong, so other people (such as this woman) do everything in their power to try and change our minds.

*raises an imaginary glass, in a toast* May you always be a stubborn old cuss, Dave, and full of pride in spite of 'em!

Patricia Wright said...

Bright red, really, really bright red. That's my vote!

ecodrew said...

I just want to say that your's and Joe's reactions to this bully were awesome. Your response was the kind that I wish I could come up with on the spot, but only think of later. I trust that you've tried many solutions to the stepping onto wet ground problem, and if this carpet is the best solution for you - why would anyone give a good damn about you using it?

I don't know your professional relationship with this bully, but I wonder if this bully has crossed the line into needing a complaint to her manager/HR dept? That's starting to sound like harassment.

And, cheap full length red carpet floor runners are available online... Just saying :-)

Liz said...

You and Joe are my heroes. I love both your responses.

wheeliecrone said...

Joe is good value. Every time.

And your answer to Ms MeanandSpiteful was spot on. That's Australian for exactly and precisely the right thing.

Erin Schroeder said...

Right now I'm picturing a setup in which you have a very long rolled up red carpet, with one end permanently fixed to the floor of your car right next to the door, so that when you open the door you can literally roll out the red carpet. I'm not sure how practical that setup would be, but it would certainly make a point.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

This caught my attention: 'the death of innocence'

What it really is is the 'death of ignorance' - and ignorance has consequences. Sex is a normal part of adult life, and you are doing an educational job for people who are not children to be protected their whole life - from themselves.

If it bothers her, she should find a different job. Her problems should not be passed on to any people she has to work with, whether or not they are disabled. It is not her choice - it is theirs.

It's like that woman who took it upon herself not to issue marriage certificates because of her personal beliefs - which is the same thing as imposing HER religion on other people - and we all know how well that works. As well as the fact that it is illegal.

L said...

Something happened today that made me think of your blogging about ableism.

Today I had a woman at a cafe sneak up behind me in my blindspot (powerchair created blindspot) and grab my left shoulder.

When I told her it wasn't okay to touch me without asking, and that it was never okay to touch people without asking,

she said "It's okay, I work with children"

"Well, I am not a child" I said.

At which point she told me how rude I was, and stormed off to complain about me at length to the waitress, and then stormed out of the cafe.