Monday, March 24, 2008


I went to get my haircut this weekend. Saturday ended up being the only day we went out. Joe developed a bad cold in the middle of last week, so we stayed in and cooked on Friday, but on Saturday he said he was up to a trip to the mall. By that afternoon his cold was back with a vengence and yesterday we stayed tucked into the house not venturing out once. It's been a quiet weekend.

But back to my haircut, because, you are dying to know. We parked at the mall and when Joe went to the washroom I wandered along looking at the stores. I saw a hair cutting place and rolled over to check if the wait was long, and if they could move a chair out so I could roll my chair in. I was greeted by a friendly smile and an assurance that there would be no problem with getting my wheelchair in right away. I waited for a moment for Joe to come back and then I told him that I was going to take the opportunity to get my hair cut.

I pulled into the space that the 'hostess' indicated and knew that I was in a 'salon' not a 'barber shop' when I was asked, "Do you prefer sissors or clippers?" in a tone that dripped pretension. I said that I didn't care what was used. "I'm feeling that sissors would be best for your style of hair," says the woman with a great sense of gravity. I'm thinking, "It's just a frigging haircut, it's not major surgery," but you don't say those things to people with sharps all around.

She was going to chat and chat she did. I never know what to say in these circumstances, I'm shy with people I don't know and I always revert to the clumbsy conversationalist I was when younger. I hit upon a question, a good one, one that I thought would sail us through to the end. "So, you worked here long?"

"No," she said and then went on to explain that for 16 years she worked in a nursing home. It was supposed to be a student placement but turned into a long term job. She got tired of it and became a 'stylist'. Then she said, "You probably noticed right off that I'm good with wheelchairs," not pausing for an answer she continued, "yeah, well that's 'cause I worked with wheelchairs for so many years. You've got to learn how to handle the wheelchairs, so they don't get upset. I got really good at that. We don't have a lot of wheelchairs come in here and some of the others are uncomfortable with them, but to me a wheelchair is just, like, a wheelchair."

She's almost finished my haircut ... sorry, let me rephrase, She's almost finished styling my hair ... and I'm wondering if I should speak up. I mean 'wheelchair' - I'm in a wheelchair, I'm not a wheelchair, that may be a minor distinction to you but it's a big one to me. I hated it a few months ago when I took a flight and there were a few of us with disabilities there and the woman at the desk wanted us to get on the plane first and over the announcement speakers said, "Could all the wheelchairs come up to get ready for boarding?" And what the hell is 'Being good with wheelchairs?' Isn't thinking that you are 'good with wheelchairs' direct proof that you are not? But ultimately, I just let it go.

I came out of the 'salon' with my hair 'styled' and Joe said, "Nice haircut" and the whole artiface fell. As we were heading to do some shopping I said, "Well at least I got a blog out of it." Joe said that he'd looked throught he window and could see that she was talking a mile a minute and knew, just knew, that that wouldn't end good. I told Joe of our conversation and he laughed.

On the way home in the car he looked at me lovingly and said, "Did wheelchair have a nice time in the mall?"



Penelope said...

I was once waiting for the flight prior to mine to come in (one of those airlines that has quick turn around times) and heard one of the airline staff say "The wheelchair on Flight X doesn't need one she has her own with her." I'm not sure they understood how ridiculous it sounded. I had to bite my tongue to not either laugh or get indignant.

Kei said...

Oy! I cringe to think of how she may have referred to other clients in the nursing home.

I have had a few people ask me about William, "Is he Downs?" gah! When I feel cheeky, I've said, "No, he's William"

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is a "minor distinction" to want to be referred to as a human being and not a piece of rolling furniture!

Another phrase that would have really irked me is this one: "You've got to learn how to handle the wheelchairs, so they don't get upset."

As if the only reason to treat a person with dignity and respect (as if she were in the first place!) is to avoid the annoyance of having them get "upset" with you. I mean, gosh, how inconvenient it must be to have to deal with people who are not doormats.

Plus, there's her arrogant presumption that her supposed skill at dealing with rolling furniture, er, I mean, with PEOPLE in rolling furniture is so vastly superior to everyone else's that you would necessarily notice it right off.

Not to mention her presumption that she actually has the skill she presumes at all. Lady, just because you've learned to avoid the really tacky behaviors you must have been engaging in early in your career to get other wheelchair users "upset" doesn't mean that you've gotten "good" at it. It only proves that you've become less dismal. Or that you've ended up meeting more passive people who are less inclined to speak out when they aren't treated with the decency they deserve.


I don't even use a wheelchair, by the way. But I wouldn't like being referred to as "a hearing aid" either (though I do use one) or "a pair of glasses" (ditto) etc.

Anonymous said...

Last line of the post, funniest line of the post. Go Joe! :D

Being referred to as Handy's, Rolly's or Wheelchairs isn't too good of an idea though...

moplans said...

I'm trying to take the humour Joe sees in this and hope she meant well. Sometimes people just say the wrong things.

Shan said...

"...And you don't want to see a wheelchair get angry. Seriously."

Angela said...

Hi, long time reader, I just wanted to say I love reading your blog!!

My son Jack (5 years old) uses a wheelchair and I think I would kick someone if they referred to his wheelchair instead of him!

I do think it's quite a funny mental picture to imagine all of the people-less wheelchairs coming to life and gallivanting around town as we all sleep!

I just wanted to let you know I left an award for you over at my blog!! Happy Spring!!


Heike Fabig said...

Aren't you lucky you got the one who "was good with wheelchairs". Imagine if you'd got one of the stylists that was "not so good with wheelchairs". Guess you can't wait to go back there.

Seriously! Some people!

All 4 My Gals said...

Okay, I think I would have said, "well my wheelchair doesn't need a haircut today, but I'm glad you're good with them." What an idiot.

And wouldn't it have been a hoot if everyone who used a wheelchair at the airport would have had someone push their empty chairs to the front.

Seriously I can not even imagine what these people mean. UGH.