I was rolling over to one of the exercise machines at my gym when I noticed a young woman, new to the gym I think, struggling to use the cable machine. She was having difficulty figuring how to move the 'do-hickies' up and down. I don't know what they are called. She glanced around and saw me and asked if I knew how to move them. I said that I did and I told her that she had to swing them either towards her or away from her to release the grip and move it. She still couldn't do it.
I pushed myself towards her to show her when from far far away a man comes running towards her to help her. I was almost there and he was still coming. He saw me about to show how it works and he began talking, over me, to explain the was to move the thing. I turned to him and said, 'I was asked, I know how it works.' I didn't say it with anger but I did say it with firmness.' He stopped in his tracks like he'd been struck. He deflated and went back to far far away.
Within seconds I had shown her how to do it. She got it right away. She said thanks, I said, 'Thanks for presuming I might know.' She thought for a minute and said, 'I get it. I really get it.' I went back to what I was doing she went back to what she was doing and my workout simply continued.
I was, indeed, shocked that she asked me. No one ever asks me for help. All sorts of people offer me help, but until this happened yesterday, no one has ever asked for help. I think that's mostly because people seldom ask anyone for help there. Most know what they are doing and the staff are great for demonstrating how the machines work. But help is asked for, occasionally, but never from me. I was grateful to be seen as competent.
I was also shocked that the fellow ran from far far away trying to get there before me and give assistance that he wasn't asked to give. I was not surprised to be talked over, this happens a lot to me as a disabled person. But his intrusion really pissed me off, not because I wanted to show of my knowledge, not because I was a man and she was a woman and I wanted to strut what I know around, but because he invisiblized me. I was clearly there and clearly not at the same time. Again this happens to me as a disabled person a lot, as the song puts it 'so visible easy to miss.'
Non-disabled people so often, so freaking often, make themselves part of the story of my day, the story of my life, without any thought of the damage they do to the story I have to tell at the end of the day. The constancy of being overlooked, under heard, and completely removed from consideration wears down the spirit a bit.
This would have been a nice story. About the presumption of competence and how good that feels, but instead it's about him. I can't rip him out of the story because he's there like a tiny bit of poo that transferred itself from dog to sidewalk to the wheel of my chair.
A little bit of poo.