Thursday, December 08, 2016

A Gift or A Given

He arrived just as I was nearing the end of the aisle. Because of the displays a narrow passageway had been created. One person at a time would be able to make it through. I am expert now in knowing if my chair will fit through any particular space and was sure it would accommodate me. But he got there first and was standing blocking the passageway looking at something on the display.

I was in a bit of a rush and said to him politely ... let me pause here and state that I know how to modulate my voice to make a request of a non-disabled person ... it has to be a little bit 'Tiny Tim' and a little bit 'stranded waif' and a little bit 'poor weak thing' and a lot of 'I'd be so grateful' ... I know how to use that voice because I use it all the time just to make a request that people get out of my damn way. So, unpause ... I said to him politely, "Could I just slip through here please?"

He looks at me and is immediately annoyed. Maybe because I don't look like Tiny Tim or a Stranded Waif or a Poor Weak Thing, in any case, he said, "You'll have to wait, I'm shopping."

Now here's the thing, I'm not Tiny Tim or a Stranded Waif or a Poor Weak Thing and I'm not full of gratitude for people simply behaving in a civil manner when in public spaces, even though I use that voice to get people to move their carts or their kids or their asses out of my pathway. So, I said, in a much different voice, "Look, I'm only asking that you let me by, I'm not asking you to give up anything more than a moment or two, what's the big deal?"

The change in tone surprised him and said, "Why do you expect to be treated differently just because you are in a wheelchair, and by the way if you drop a bit of weight, you'd not need those wheels."

"OK, Dr. Jerk, MD. You've made a misdiagnosis my weight and my disability are separate issues. And here's the thing, I'm not asking for something special, you are blocking a pathway that the smallest of children would have to ask you to move. This wasn't a disabled request it's an anyone request. But not to worry, I'll back up and you won't have to be disturbed from living your life as an asshole."

He's mad now and says, "Alright, just get the fuck by," and he moves.

"No," I said, "I'll back up, you stay in asshole rut, and see where that takes you a few years from now."

"Don't call me an asshole and aren't you being an asshole for backing all the way back down the aisle when I've moved."

I'm further from him now and I stop, look at him, and say, "I want nothing from you. Nothing."

And there ended another moment in the pleasant life of being disabled and needing space in a world where disabled people live with space a gift rather than a given.

6 comments:

kstableford said...

Dr. Jerk is right. What a dick.

Unknown said...

Ugh! Ugly.
Clairesmum

tragicsandwich said...

I do not understand why it is so hard for some people to share the world.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Wow. Right from self-centered to attacking you in 3 seconds flat.

If an able person had said to him, "Excuse me. You're blocking the aisle," I wonder what he would have said. "Sorry," and let her pass?

There are nasty people in the world. They have recently been emboldened. Civilization is a thin veneer, and hard to maintain, while being and aggressive idiot is thick and easy.

Up until recently I would have said the human race is making progress.

Namaste said...

Cattle prod. Just sayin'.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

WTF? You weren't asking to be treated differently at all, you were just asking for the same courtesy that people give to each other all the time, i.e. to step out of each other's way. HE was the one who decided to treat you differently, ie by treating you rudely.

And why do so many people leap to that silly and unfounded assumption that fat wheelchair users are just lazy people who could walk if they wanted to? I mean seriously. If a person really did decide to start riding a wheelchair everywhere just out of laziness, they would discover very quickly that it would limit them from going to a lot of the places they want to go, and would make it more cumbersome to go to some of the places where they still *could* go. If laziness really was a person's only motivation for using a wheelchair, then that really would not last long at all. Sheer logic would be enough to demolish this stereotype ... if only people understood enough about access issues to even think it through.