I know I look unhappy.
I know my face at rest gives the impression that I'm a sour, maybe even bitter, person.
I'm none of those things.
Long before I became disabled I had to deal with bartenders, and wait staff, and General J.T.C. Public who would either be wary of me of want to cheer me up. It's become a little more complex now that I have a disability. Typically people now attribute my perceived unhappiness as a result of my being a wheelchair user. No way in hell a cheery hello or a 'buddy can I get you a beer' will fix that will it?
I've talked with others who, like me, have faces that are misread and mostly we simply laugh about it. There's often a very good story behind assumptions that people make.
It happened again this morning. We were in the executive lounge of the hotel we are staying in, we have access because we are really regular and really loyal customers. We are 'elite' customers. I say this not to brag but to put what happened in context. I am clearly someone who, wheelchair and all, lives a fairly active life, at least with respect to travel.
Joe went upstairs to get our bread, we travel with our own bread and we'd forgotten it in the room. A fellow at the next table, on walking to the buffet, stopped and told me to 'cheer up' and suggested that I think happy thoughts. Annoying but innocuous. I smiled, which probably looked like a grimace, but, whatever.
On his way back he said, "You know there are probably solutions for life,' he patted the armrest of my wheelchair, 'in this.' I was dumbfounded. I was confused. I didn't know what he meant, or how to take what he said. When Joe got back and we were having our breakfast, I quietly pointed out the man who had spoken to me and told Joe what he said. Joe looked shocked, "Have you overheard their conversation?" he asked me. I told him that I hadn't paid much attention to him or the people at his table. "They are all doctors," Joe said.
The guy was a Doctor.
I don't want to go all paranoid but, I have to say, that I realized that one of the things he may have been referring to, as a suggestion for how to deal with my life, was death. He could have also been suggesting weight loss or some other medical intervention less drastic than death.
But here's the thing ... it's a possibility he meant that, from his perspective as a doctor, I'd be better off dead.
All because I have a face that, at rest, looks unhappy.
All because I look unhappy while sitting in a wheelchair.