COVID has had an odd effect on seemingly a lot of people. All disabled people know the phenomenon of total strangers smiling at or greeting with a friendly (like to a Labrador dog), "Helllllllo.' This has skyrocketed and I'm greeted by strangers at a near-constant rate. Something about the lockdown has people trying really hard to be overtly nice.
But they aren't addressing me.
They are addressing DISABILITY writ large.
That I'm in the chair versus anyone else in my chair is irrelevant.
When people say that they are just being kind, you can't actually be kind to a wheelchair or the abstract concept of disability, you are kind to people, living things. And that's not me and it feels weird to be acknowledged and not acknowledged at exactly the same time.
But a few days ago, I was finishing up on the cable machine at the gym, a total stranger stopped on his way by. I've seen him many times before but we'd never spoken. That day he stopped said hi and asked if I'd missed the gym like he did during the last lockdown. I said that I did and we chatted for a wee second or two.
I enjoyed that because he didn't speak to my chair or my disability, he spoke to me as a fellow gym member as someone who shared something with him. Human to human.
It's this kind of social contact that I miss.
The other kind makes me feel lonelier than I've ever felt before.
Singled out and disappeared is an odd act of violence that I'm not sure the privileged understand.
So it felt good to be referred to like another human rather than the occupier of space within a wheelchair.