Sunday, January 17, 2010

Courage at Carmen

I heard the oddest conversation. Part of the reason it was so odd was simply because I was there to hear it. Joe and I went to Met at the Movies yesterday to see Carmen. As we watched the screen go live to New York we saw the camera panning over the audience. I noted to Joe that the men attending at the Met had very little in the way of hair. Then we looked around and noted that the audience was of the vintage that makes wine expensive.

During the first act, when I wasn't slipping to snooze like a quarter of the audience. Some come for the Opera, some come for a really good nap. I was remembering the first time we saw Carmen. We had been driving to church when we noticed a sign outside the high school on Harbord Avenue announcing a production of the Opera. Those were the days when we could never have afforded to go to the 'real' opera so we jumped at the chance to see what they had managed.

That production was memorable for the fact that the male lead had broken his leg and was on crutches, which made climbing to the smugglers hangout in the mountains an interesting visual trick and that the entire orchestra was made up of a middle aged woman on an upright high school piano. She banged her way through the entire three or four hours never missing a note, never missing a beat. When it was over the cast got polite applause but she got a standing ovation. But that has nothing to do with my post. But it's Sunday, I'm allowed a leisurely drive.

So at intermission the guy sitting next to us got up and started talking to his female companion. It was clear they were not married but attending together. They started swapping health stories, made jokes about the pills that they were taking. Others joined in and for a few minutes it seemed like we had dropped in on a 'We're all about to die support group'. Trouble was I was finding the topic interesting.

Then the guy sitting next to us started talking about how it was nice to be out, how he'd stopped going out, how he missed going to the movies, going out for dinner, going out shopping. He just can't move like he used to, and prolonged standing would leave him in pain. Then, even after a glance at me, he said, 'But at least I'm not in a wheelchair.' She agreed with him that he was showing courage.

WTF!! Courage is staying in, not going out? Courage is giving up, not adapting and going on? Courage is holding on to what you were rather than embracing who you are? Not only that, saying such a thing in front of someone in a wheelchair seemed to me the height of rudeness. (Not that listening into a conversation that doesn't involve you at all is rude - no, it's, expected.)I wanted to use my bum foot to kick his bum ass. Get a freaking chair and go out shopping, go out to dinner, go to the movies. You only get one kick at the can ... and take it from me, if you can't kick the can. Roll over it!!


Andrea S. said...

It never quite ceases to surprise me how a person can fail to make the connection between their failure to use a wheelchair when it might benefit them and the fact that suddenly their world has become smaller after it becomes harder to move properly. It's not just difficulty in moving that's creating his problems. It's also his reluctance to let go of his old and evidently quite mistaken assumptions about what being "in a wheelchair" means for independence, his value as a person, etc.

I have a condition that could conceivably mean I might need a wheelchair someday, as I get older. On one hand, I don't intend to start buying a wheelchair necessarily on the first occasion that I find myself struggling a little bit. There are certain advantages to walking, after all, including, yes, the "able bodied privilege" that means you can continue to access locations with steps, narrow doorways, or otherwise lacking in wheelchair access. But on the other hand, I don't intend to refuse investing in a wheelchair just because I think I would be automatically better off being trapped at home than going anywhere in a wheelchair. The minute doing without a wheelchair starts to confine my life (if the time ever does come, it is not definite that it would) is the minute I intend to get one.

FridaWrites said...

In absolute agreement with you and Andrea. Courage is going out in a wheelchair and going on with life.

NerdBird said...

I think - or at least hope - that the younger generations will not think the same way. We/they are so used to having technology improving our lives everywhere that if you can't walk you EXPECT some piece of technology to do it for you.

Liz said...

I like that.....

"If you can't kick the can.... Roll over it!!!"