We were leaving the mall heading for the car. My wheelchair legs are a bit low and often scrape the ground when I go down cut curbs. As a result, I simply turn the chair around and go down backward. I do this so often it's automatic and done with ease. Joe was walking with me, helping me to watch out for cars, but once I hit the pavement I swivel back around and continue on my way.
There were a lot of people heading out with us and I was amongst the last to make my way across to the parking lot. A truck was stopped waiting for the way to clear. I only noticed the truck, I didn't see the driver. I didn't even look, like everyone else I just crossed the over to where I could see our car.
But I'm not like everyone else, as the world seems to want to remind me on a constant and ongoing basis. As the truck went behind me the driver called out to me, "Hey, you fat fuck, how about showing a little gratitude." And he was gone.
Let's leave aside the issue of what he called me and talk about what he expected of me. Unlike everyone else who crossed the street, I was supposed to show gratitude for his waiting. As if it was an expectation for everyone else and a gift to me. Why can't I simply expect to use public space in exactly the same way as everyone else?
I like to think I am grateful.
Yet I don't feel that I owe gratitude to anyone. Disabled people are expected by some to be 'grateful' for simply being and doing. We who were exiled, who lived at the margins of society, now must bow our backs in gratitude and supplication to anyone and everyone whose sight is besmirched by our presence.
Gratitude is mine to give.
And there is power in withholding.