While in Atlanta Joe and I went to a shopping mall. We wanted to see if we could pick up a few gifts to take home for the kids. As we wandered around we decided to head to the food court for lunch. We got there and there were only three or four vendors.
Joe decided on Chinese because they had a picture of a tofu dish that looked good. I had decided on a burrito that I would get from a different vendor. I waited with Joe as he placed his order. When he was done, the woman behind the counter said,, "That's two orders?"
Joe said, "No, it's just for me."
She became visibly upset, "What about him?"
Stunned by the question, he said nothing for a second and she launched in again. "What about him, doesn't he want an order too?"
I spoke up now and said that no I didn't want an order, I was going somewhere else to get something else.
When I spoke she literally seemed to jump out of her skin. Her eyes widened. It was like she'd seen either a ghost or a puppet speak unaided. Then, "So, that's two orders?" she said turning back to Joe and trying to understand what one person and one non-person would want for lunch.
I just gave up and told Joe I was going to go order my burrito, I rolled over the the Mexican place and placed my order with no difficulty at all. The guy let me choose without question or comment what I wanted wrapped inside. It was easy.
In his presence I felt fully human again.
I wonder if people realize that disabled people do have feelings and sensibilities in relationship to what happens around us. I can leave a situation feeling like my humanity, my personness, has been diminished or I can leave a situation feeling my humanity has been affirmed.
Someone listening to me, without commentary, as I choose what I want in a burrito is enough to make me feel like a welcomed fellow human.
Disabled people don't ask for much.
But it seems hard for many to get the word 'people' after 'disabled.'