Friday, March 04, 2016

Wall Walker

Image Description: A large man walking along a hallway touching the wall as he walks.
I am a wall walker.

I didn't know that's what I was until my physiotherapist used the term when describing me on the phone to her supervisor. I can walk for very short distances but I have terrible balance and have fallen more often than I'd like to admit. The last time was a very public splat on the floor of a WheelTrans bus. That one hurt! The way I prevent falling is by touching the walls as I walk. This increases my stability by 1000% and it allows me to walk in my apartment from room to room and in my office from my desk to the toilet.

Even though I know I'll not do long distances again, I like to keep what I have and as a result most mornings Joe and I leave the apartment about five minutes early and I take a walk down the hallway. It's usually around 6 in the morning and I don't have to worry about doing any fancy footwork around anyone else. I'm big, I'm cumbersome and I take up space in the hallway, passing me without me falling over would be difficult. Over time I have increased from being able to walk to the elevator and back to being able to walk from one end to the other. By the time I'm back at my chair both arms are up touching both walls, but I always feel it's an accomplishment.

One day last week I was doing this and a woman down the other end of the hall poked her head out to get her newspaper and saw me in the hallway. She had never seen me out of my chair before and her face registered some shock but nothing was said. I couldn't have anyway because the effort it takes to walk and not fall over leaves me breathless.

The next day I saw her, both coming back from work at the same time and she, who had always been pleasant, was quite rude to both Joe and I. We looked at each other with a 'what's wrong with her' look but let it go. People have bad days. Next time I saw her she was rude again and I asked her what's up, she screwed up her face and said, "You fucking faker!" And that was that. I tried to speak but she cut me off.

People with disabilities are a minority group about which non-members have virtually no understanding. The idea that people in chairs only use chairs and that people who walk never need adaptations is rampant. It's fueled by the idea that we're all using the system in some way, taking tax dollars that we don't deserve, that we are fakers and cons. I tell you what, I don't care that she's going to be rude and going to view me differently now. I don't care that she's going to tell others I'm a faker. I don't care.

I'm tired of caring what ignorant non-disabled people think.

It's not my job to teach, it's their job, as a living, thinking being to learn. To ask questions. To inform themselves. That's their job. I'm not going to run after her or anyone else with information or with facts. I've enough to do. Wall walking takes up a lot of effort, keeping myself strong and well takes time, taking care of my heart and my soul takes my attention.

I've nothing left for her.

Because, and this is fucking awesome, her ignorance isn't my responsibility.


CapriUni said...

Okay, now, I'm envisioning you in a Spider-Man costume. ;-)

Kris S. said...

What a jerk!

Anonymous said...

Kind of underscores the teaching that it's not our job to judge others, eh? I would like to share teaching from my faith tradition: "The Kingdom of God is founded upon equity and justice, and also upon mercy, compassion, and kindness to every living soul. Strive ye then with all your heart to treat compassionately all humankind—except for those who have some selfish, private motive, or some disease of the soul. Kindness cannot be shown the tyrant, the deceiver, or the thief, because, far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it maketh them to continue in their perversity as before. No matter how much kindliness ye may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believeth you to be deceived, while ye understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion."

At the risk of judging, I'm thinking that this woman is showing signs of tyranny - and is therefore not entitled to your efforts to educate her. I hope that the loving support you have received since this incident has been enough to make up for her abrasiveness.

Tragic Sandwich said...

I'm so sorry. She needs to learn more--at a minimum, she needs to learn that she needs to learn more.

My mother could walk around our house, or other short distances. It didn't mean she didn't need a wheelchair to get out and about. And needing the chair to get out and about didn't mean she couldn't stand up.

I didn't know you could walk down the hall. And all that means is that I didn't know you could walk down the hall. Hopefully someday this woman will realize that.

Patricia Wright said...

Right - you are a faker because it is so much easier to navigate the world in a wheelchair that you choose it as your primary mode of transport.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I always need a wheelchair in an airport. Airports are huge. I can walk short distances, longer distances with my leg braces (a hallway's length), a bit longer with my walker, but I CANNOT do airports, much less carrying something.

I always feel like a faker - and I always tell myself to cut it out.

That kind of woman rubs off on us.

When I park my van with the handicap license plates, I can usually walk into the store. There I will need the little carts. By the time I'm leaving, and given that the store I'm thinking of won't let you take these carts out (when I'm most tired), I'm dragging and managing by hanging on to the heavy carts. It's all I can do to drive home safely after a short visit to a store. But you might not be able to tell when I first get there, park where I park, go into the store, and get their cart: so I always feel like a faker.

It is insidious.

Anonymous said...

It has been proven that even just touching a finger on a wall will help you balance. I have Meniere's Disease, with vertigo, and I will often run my finger(s) along a wall or surface. It helps your brain negotiate better with another sense entered into the system. Good for you to figure out what works for you. I've only 2 bad experiences with people "attacking" me around my disabilities, once for taking a disability parking space (I have a permit, and a reason for it) and once exiting a large washroom cubicle and getting "dressed down" by a mother and child. "Excuse me!" I left my mobility aids outside the washroom due to lack of space. I often feel like bringing out my disability card to justify what they don't deem worthy of needed space, but then, why bow to their level. My goodness, I have to rent a scooter when away, but I don't (yet) use one everyday. So, because I can walk, does that make me a "faker". Where did that woman's anger come from???

Frank_V said...

My wife, who is a psychologist, learned a phrase during her long years earning her doctorate: "People suck!"

clairesmum said...

Ugh...such nastiness from a neighbor. These unexpected verbal attacks designed to induce shame in the recipient reveal more about her than about you. Hoping that the nastiness isn't repeated and does not become a burden to you.