Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Them That's They

Image description: A simply drawn picture of a man in power chair escaping from a jail cell.

After work yesterday, Joe and I headed out for a bit of a wander. We knew that a big winter storm was heading our way and that the likelihood was that it would be difficult to get around for the next couple of days. Once we were out we discovered quickly that the road was already slick and treacherous . My back wheels were doing fishtails and Joe was holding on to my chair for a kind of uneasy support. So, we decided to just go into the mall. It wasn't out out, but it was still out.

Joe went into the first entrance that we came to. It is down a long set of stairs, we agreed to meet at the security desk which is at the bottom of the northernmost set of elevators. I continued on, carefully driving so that I'd not lose control and that I'd not smack into someone walking.

I followed two women for a bit, the were obviously heading for the same entrance as I. They didn't take the ramp, preferring the stairs and I zipped up the ramp. I waited, politely, for them to go through the doors, and I then followed. One of the women made a comment about winter weather to me, I answered in kind, the other asked me if it was dangerous to be in a power chair in the snow, fair question, I answered that it took skill but it wasn't risky. Then, and there's almost always a then when discussing any part of life with a disability with those outside the community, one woman said, "I'm just so surprised that they would let you out on a day like this."


I said, "There is no 'they.'" But I said it to closed minds and met blank smiles.

I hadn't the time or inclination for a tantrum.

I've been asked about 'them' before, the 'they' whose permission I seem to need to be out and about and living in the community. I've been asked if 'they' know what I'm doing. I've been asked where 'they' are. I've been asked if 'they' think it's OK for me to be spending my money the way I've been spending my money.

I'd never stopped to wonder who they picture 'they' to be? Where do they think I come from? A locked cell? A locked ward? Do they think I live behind a locked door where 'they' have the key and I do not? Is this part of their fear of disability ... the coming of the 'they'? That disability means that there is a 'they' who takes control of one's life and captures you with protection?

Who are THEY?

Well, actually, I am 'they' to some of the people I serve. I hope I'm not as they imagine me to be. I hope we all aren't as they imagine. I hope I'm not a captor. I hope I'm not someone's permission giver.

I don't want a 'they' as imagined by two women on the street.

I don't want to be the 'they' that they imagine either.

Shit, and we were just going out for a walk. I met Joe waiting for me to get off the elevator, he had such a hopeful look. A 'please don't tell me a blog happened today' look. So I gave in to him, and we finished our walk. I kicked 'them that's they' to the side and we went on our way unencumbered.


Andrea S. said...

I laughed at this bit, "Please don't tell me a blog happened today"!

I guess they think that every disabled person must have a carer, and that the job of the carer is not to care but to keep under control. *eye roll*

Cathy James said...

"I hope I'm not someones permission giver".

If that isn't a mantra for support I don't know what is.

Frank_V said...

They're coming to take me away: Hoo-hoo, hee-hee, ha-ha. Rather, I wish they would take them away, all those condescending people who think people with disabilities need any kind of "they", never mind a "they" from whom we must ask permission to go out there and live a life.

Jeannette said...

I used to work with a woman who had perfected the art of saying, "I beg your pardon?" to inappropriate comments. It turned the responsibility right back onto the other person, and also gave her a moment to recover, and maybe to think of a good response.
I've tried to learn that skill. So far, I haven't succeeded -- I remember about 5 minutes too late -- but one of these days....

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Ah, partners.

If Joe were you, would you be as understanding as you are now? No, because many of the issues he would face would not be your primary issues.

Sometimes you can shield your loved ones from stuff you have to deal with, and other times they're just going to have to go through it with you.

C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Joe saw the blog worthy moment on your face as you met up. I'm sure it is hard for him as he sees/hears about the insensitive scenarios you face. A heart of love also hurts when those you love are hurt. It is hard not to let such incidents color your day/outing. Ignorance is unfortunately alive and well.

Liz McLennan said...

Oh, Dave. My heart sank...and then it chuckled at the "Please don't tell me a blog post just happened" bit because I get the same look from my husband and children, from time to time. Today, I spent the morning crafting FB status updates that I knew I'd never post, but made me feel better to mentally "say.."

Which is neither here nor there, really, but that bit of levity at the end made your tale even more poignant and striking, somehow.

Ron Arnold said...

You know though - in the end, there is no 'they.' It's always one individual with an idea about something in the first place. Then group assent to the idea follows. That being said - my wife is often my 'they' in terms of permission.