|Image description: An intersection with words at each corner: 'hello?' 'anyone listening?' 'is it just me?' and 'am I alone here?'|
She stopped me at the pasta sauces. I had stopped to let someone pass and she caught up with me, "Excuse me," she said. I had noticed her in the store, she too was shopping in a power wheelchair, she too was putting her purchases in a shopping bag like I was, she too was big, not me big, but big. "I don't want to intrude on your day," she said. I said I didn't mind and we moved to a space where we would be out of the way.
"I want to know how often you are accused of shoplifting, when you are still in the store, because you are putting stuff in your bag."
I told her that I've never had that happen. I've had people tell me that I shouldn't be buying what I'm buy either because it's sweet or because they think it's frivolous and a waste of benefit dollars. But I've never been accused of shoplifting while still in the store.
She told me that it happened to her all the time. "People in scooters have their baskets, but I can't use a basket, I need to use a bag. I get stopped at least once or twice a week with people assuming I'm stealing."
"That's horrible," I said.
"Being black and disabled, I get the worst of every bad stereotype."
We chatted how my weight had people commenting on my shopping and, she at a different intersection, gets something entirely different even though we were performing the exact same behaviour.
She said she'd been waiting to see someone who shopped like she did, someone a bit bigger, she said kindly, someone who used a bag, and when she saw me she had to ask.
After our brief chat I told her that, oddly, I felt better. She said that she did too. While we both had different experiences we could still talk about those in a context of understanding. It was if she crossed the road from her corner of the intersection to mine.
I wonder why we don't talk more about disability as an experience in multiple diversities, more often. We all talk a lot about 'community' and 'access' and 'welcome' ... so maybe we need to be a community wherein all have access and feel welcome.
Intersections? A great place to stop for a chat.