The grocery store we shop at is part of a chain of stores that have locations all through the eastern provinces and a few scattered stores out west. We like the store and we like the fact that in most stores we shop in while we travel, we see employees with intellectual disabilities working at bagging groceries or dealing with errant carts in the parking lot. Though I've never checked, I just guessed that the store had a policy of some kind to hire people with disabilities. I like seeing corporate responsibility and a true understanding of diversity.
But in my local store, up until now, I've never seen anyone with a disability working there. Hell, I'm the only one with a disability that I've ever seen in the store. Even though I know that there are tons of people with invisible disabilities, there must be the disabled parking bays are always full, in the store. It's nice sometimes just to 'see' difference. Anyways, there she was, big as real life, filling plastic bags with groceries.
She wore the store tee shirt marking her as an employee and she was competently placing groceries into the plastic bag. I looked at her waiting to be inspired. I am a person who is easily moved. I can feel tears brim when I see someone with an intellectual disability standing at a bus stop waiting for a ride. I think it's because of two reasons. One, I'm an emotional kind of guy. Two, I worked at the dawn of time in the institutions. I can overlay a picture of a guy standing lost and alone in an institution hallway over the image of the guy at the bus stop ... I can actually see the progress made - and it thrills me.
So, I waited to be inspired. And she should have done the job. I get all sorts of inspirational emails with stories of people, like her, with Down Syndrome working as bagboys and who create whole new worlds around them. They inspire truckers to leave money for a heart operation, they inspire shoppers to rethink their lives, they do their job - and more - they make a heartless world whole. These are busy, busy, busy people with a big job to do.
I waited. For inspiration to come. But it didn't. She did her job, true. That should have been enough. So many people write of those with intellectual disabilities as unemployable drains on society. But she had a job. Putting bread into a bag. She had proved them wrong. And wrong is the word. There was something wrong with the picture.
"You're staring," Joe whispered.
I quickly looked away and we headed to the car. I thought of her on and off, felt deep inside for something. Anything. But I felt nothing. Not a single spark of inspiration. Drat. What's up with that.
Yesterday we needed to stop by a grocery store to pick up some things we needed for the BBQ that day. As it was after a movie we stopped at a different store from a different chain. I looked purposely at their bag personnel and noticed none who had an obvious disability. But, I noticed something. They all looked bored. Completely bored. When one of them glanced at their watch, like she had done several times, I understood something.
She was bored stiff. She felt about her job like they did about theirs. That it was beneath her talents. That it was something to do to fill the day and make some money but that it wasn't the diamond in the sky - the pinnacle of her ambitions - the opportunities to change some minds and warm some hearts. It was just bagging groceries. Just because she had a disability didn't mean that she had to act ally grateful and look moonstruck at a block of cheese that she was sticking into a bag.
It's a boring tedious job.
And she'd rather be reading, or watching television, or gabbing on the phone - just like everyone else.
So no inpirational story will ever be made out of the woman with Down Syndrome bagging groceries at my local grocery store. She's not going to end up travelling through the internet as an example to all of us normates about the true value of being human. She won't be a literary equivelent to Tiny Tim. She'll just be a bored bag clerk, doing what's got to be done.
And, I guess, ironically that's kind of inspiration enough.