Monday, March 13, 2017

No Room

We'd landed. Joe and I were both mentally prepared for what was to happen next. Pearson Airport, in it's wisdom, has completely carpeted the very long passageway from the gates where international flights dock to the Canadian Customs hall. It had been my determination, for months, to prepare to do this trip under my own strength. Looking down the long, long hallway that led to another long, long hallway, I almost relented and accepted help from the people sent to push me. But, I'd trained for this and I was going to at least try. We sent them on their way.

It was very, very, hard pushing. It seemed like they'd installed a newer, plusher, carpet from the last time I'd flown. At the end of the first hallway, I said to Joe that I didn't think I was going to make it. But we'd sent away those who were to help me, so I just took several breaths and started up again. When I made it to Customs, I was elated. Almost done. Just needed to go through Customs, get our bags and then get to the spot where the bus would pick us up.

I know this airport well. I knew I had one longish ramp to face and then a fair push to the bus stop. I'd done carpet so I could do this. Joe waited at the top of the ramp, not even bothering to come and spot me on this one, I'd done ramps twice this length in the Metrocenter in Newcastle. But, just as I was getting to the top a man said, "May I help you," while grabbing me. Not again! I grabbed my wheels and held them tight telling him "No" really firmly. He said, "I did ask," and I said, "You grabbed me at the same time." There was a moment of brittle hostility on both sides.

I had to then, near the top, with no momentum, push myself the last few agonizing inches. He watched me do this and then his face softened, "I'm really proud of you. Really, really, proud," he said and then left. I had no time for this pride. The luggage took along time to come and we were cutting it fine for making the bus. So I just motored down the terminal towards the door where the bus comes. I flew.

On the bus, I began to think about why he thought that his pride in me would matter to me at all. He's a stranger. But maybe he thought he was a representative for all non-disabled people who watch a person with a disability determinedly do something on their own, maybe it was a collective, "We're proud of you." I don't know if you all remember a letter that went viral from some random dude to a fat person running on a track, but it was a kind of universal embracing of the effort the fat person was putting into becoming normal or some such shit. Yeeuck.

But, then, I thought, what if I had actually needed assistance? Would that make me someone who lived on the edge of pride, the outskirts of shame? What the hell? Assistance or Independence in the life of a person with a disability is an incredibly unique combination of factors that are singularly about that person and their life in their body. There is no room for comment.

And that's it isn't it?

There is no room for comment.

5 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

ASK, and then WAIT for the answer. What's so hard about that?

This idiot ruined your momentum.

And then has the nerve to tell you he's proud of you?

You must spend a lot of time wanting to scream.

The body language of someone needing assistance is different: they are looking around, seeing if they can make eye contact with some biddable human. You were NOT exhibiting this body language. Yours was the body language of an athlete pushing himself.

Because I think of you as an athlete!

h smith said...

Ugh. I really dont know how you manage to not react by losing your sh*t in these situations. I would literally be hissing and spitting at the person vomiting their false pride at me for recovering after they'd interfered with my momentum

Ranvaig said...

I get so angry in situations like this... but I always worry that perhaps some other person will need help, that isn't forecoming. So I try to at least stay polite.

The worst is when they touch me or my chair rather than letting me move out of the way, and say "I don't mind". They might not mind, but I do!!

Danni said...

Grrr. The "pride" afterwards just makes it worse.

Well done for getting up the ramp after that. The short period of time before I got too ill to self propel after getting my chair was long enough to know how hard ramps are with a decent run up (that and if my husband stops on the ramp to our flat he really struggles to start again).

I used to love going to the MetroCentre in my chair. My favourite times were when it was quiet - my husband would let go at the top of the ramp, and I'd pick up a decent amount of speed going down. One of my favourite things. I go to Eldon Square in Newcastle now as it's closer but it tends to be more crowded and there aren't the awesome ramps the MetroCentre has.

Rachel S said...

One of the most frustrating encounters I ever had with a stranger was one day when I was between classes, in college, sitting with friends. He came over, said he was a doctor, and he was so happy to see me here, and left.

Why the @*%& shouldn't I have been there? I had to explain why I got so upset to my friends, who thought at first he was being nice, but got it when they heard me (and my tears!) out.