Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Trophy, Maybe

I was zipping up Yonge Street all by myself. I felt very much like a grown up! With Joe down for the count with the flu, I was charged with doing the banking and getting a few groceries. Our neighbour Tessa offered to do some shopping for us and while that's wonderful, I just had to get out of the house. I'm seldom really on my own and, though I missed Joes presence, I kind of liked the 'man about town' feel of zipping along alone.

I pulled up to a curb to wait for the light to cross. I waited behind a tall thin woman wearing painted on pants and a pretty blouse. She was on the phone and talking animatedly to a friend. When the light changed, she didn't move, I couldn't get around her because there were people waiting to cross the street in the other direction. If she didn't move, neither would I.

Hmmmm, I'm wondering if other disabled people have developed that, 'I'm oh so sorry to be a bother' tone of voice that is used when asking people to move or step aside. Mine is well used and well polished. I asked her if I could slip by. She glanced down at me, meaning she heard me, she saw that I couldn't get by her, then she glanced away as if I wasn't there and continued her conversation. I was stunned. What is the big deal, move your skinny little ass out of the way!

I raised my voice and said, 'Excuse me, could I get by please.' This time she didn't even look she just carried on with her conversation. Suddenly I felt like I'm embroiled in a battle that I didn't want over an issue I didn't choose. I just wanted to go north across the street while the light was green.

Now, I yelled loudly, 'Please move!!' Suddenly a boyfriend appears out of nowhere, I think he may have been in the store or coming out of the store during all of this. He's yelling at me, 'Don't you fucking yell at her, do you understand you fucking cripple, don't you fucking yell at her.' I'm terrified because he looks real mad and those fists he's forming look like they are about to leave impressions on my face.

'I just want to get by man, that's all I want,' I say breathlessly. I'm scared. I don't like dealing with angry people, I don't like their unpredicatability. 'Just don't you fucking ever yell at her again,' he says calming down slightly. I took a chance and said, 'I wasn't yelling at her, I was yelling to get her attention, I just want to go across the street.' 'Well, beat it then.'

By now the light is red but there were no cars coming so I roared across the street with my heart beating in my chest. I caught her eye as I went by, she was smirking.

I guess she won something, but I don't know what it was.


Glenda Watson Hyatt said...

Sometimes a wheelchair foot pedal in the shin gets people's attention! That may sound brutal, sometimes that is what it takes. ;)

miss kitten said...

what she wanted was immediate attention from the male beast who thought he had to threaten A MAN IN A WHEELCHAIR to make himself look all macho in her eyes.

thing is...the guys that will do that sort of thing (macho stupidity caused by testosterone poisoning) to impress the girl, often end up using it ON the girl. she just doesnt have enough life knowledge to understand anything besides "i have big boobs (i'm assuming here) and i can get what i want".

too bad for her that the REAL gentleman has another lovely gentleman at home waiting for him. she messed with the gold and settled for the dross.

*hugs* (oh and i never felt LESS repentant than when i ran over a little old lady's toes while i was using a chair. why? because i yelled "excuse me!" at the top of my rather impressive lungs and she ignored it. when SHE screeched, i smirked and told her she should have been paying attention.)

Anonymous said...

In a strange way, its something to not take personally (as if that is ever possible!!), as its likely the smirking/shouting couple, thinking so little of you, will likewise think little of everyone.

There is a democracy to ignorance and unmindfulness.

Not sure I'm clear here. Just trying to find the words, I guess.

Heather said...

I'm with Glenda. An 'accidental' tap with the footplate followed by profuse apology and they've moved before they know it.

Andrea S. said...

miss kitten,

You don't give enough detail for me to judge so I'm just raising a possibility -- but could it be that "little old lady" was deaf enough that she honestly didn't hear you the first time? As a deaf person (though not old ... yet!) I have sometimes had people get upset at me for "ignoring" them when I hadn't even realized there was anyone there -- the first I knew it was when I happened to turn around to see someone yelling at me.

Dave, tell Joe I hope he feels better quickly. And, ugh, I wish I could wipe that smirk from her face. When you first described the woman standing there, blatantly ignoring you, I thought perhaps this woman is one of those people who just completely fail to understand that, yes, a wheelchair does need a wider path to get by. (I ran into similar problems some years ago when I was on crutches for a while -- people on metro platforms would shuffle maybe all of two inches to the side then act all perplexed because I continued to ask them to move further, they couldn't understand that no I couldn't just squeeze through sideways like everyone else)

But that smirk, ugh. She must have known what she was doing. I just don't get people like that.

FridaWrites said...

I'm with Glenda and OhWheely on this one--starting to brush by people will make them move--but it has to be very slight or they'll think (or claim) they're under attack.

Sometimes I think people don't truly understand why we're asking--don't clue in that we need the ramp/curb cut and can't just go around. Distracted people just aren't logical.

Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says - Yes, Dave. She won something. She won the C--- of the Day Prize.

Kristin said...

I hate bitchy petty shallow people like that woman. I'm so sorry you had to deal with that.

Belinda said...

To begin with I was thinking how great it would be to have wheelchairs equipped with bicycle bells or one of those horns with the bulbs that you squeeze (don't know what they're called.)

But then when I read of the boyfriend and the smirking--please fill in the blank--I felt so outraged at their ignorance and rudeness.

As I have said here before when reading of such twerps, I think we can thank God that we leave such people behind, but they have to live with themselves--and eachother. I feel sorry for them.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I probably would've hit her. And I don't know if I would've kept it to a "light tap". It's one thing if someone honestly doesn't hear you, but to turn around, see you and ignore you is something totally different. I myself am not in a wheelchair, but I do work with many folks who are, and am accutely aware of the space they need. Hopefully what goes around comes around and this couple will get what they deserve from karam.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

What a horrible situation!

Never having used a wheelchair I certainly can't advise about how to handle such a situation. However, for what it is worth, I think physical violence - even a tap of a footplate - is inadvisable. My impression of you Dave is that you are a pretty non-violent man anyway. I just think that when you start to use physical violence you make it more likely that people will respond with violence. And these 2 totally self-absorbed bozos seemed totally ready for that!

In my opinion you handled that situation as well as possible.

I like what anonymous said, "there is a democracy to ignorance and unmindfulness."

I also want to send Joe wishes for a speedy recovery

yanub said...

I'm adding my support to Glenda's comment. You know, not all disabled people develop a "sorry to be a bother" tone, and why should they? People with disabilities have a perfect right to do the everyday things in life without any extra drama. Next time, holler "coming through!" and come through. If she didn't move, other people would have.

MC Mobility said...

Wow. Only 9:50 am here in EST and my blood is already boiling!!! My assistant and I have sat here rehearsing all the things we would have said.

Oh, well. Just look at it this way. You only had to deal with them for 5 minutes. They have to live with being a-holes for the rest of their lives.

Cynthia F. said...

What a bitch! How dare she act like you don't exist!

And I hate scary people who yell when one has done nothing wrong. Ick.

Anonymous said...

She did win . . . "Asshole of the year award." There is no excuse for bad manners. If you want vindication just picture her in a few years when her prettiness wears off and he tires of always rescuing her. Or her attitude gets him in a real bind. I'm not wishing anything bad n anyone, but Karma happens!

Molly said...

Yeah, she won the "sucking at life" award.

I would have shot her a nasty look right back.

BTW I got an A- on my paper about sex and disability! You were my intro paragraph! Since you are basically the only one I know who talks about sex and disability.

ivanova said...

I guess in her mind every social interaction, no matter how small, is a struggle for dominance.

What you won: crossing the street, being the better person, getting scared by the confrontation. OK, not great prizes.

What she won: proof that she's power-mad and a lousy human being who will die embittered and unfulfilled, based on her present behavior.

Seems like you're coming out ahead in this contest, pointless as it was.

miss kitten said...

andrea, someone having a normal-sound-level conversation with her companion, who DID notice me and step aside (they were blocking a walkway) i can only assume has normal hearing, you know?

her companion also told her she was dumb for not paying attention. ah well.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a runner-up for a Super Sphincter award. comes with a pink, puckery crown.

Anonymous said...

What did she win at her own expense....
another day of smugness
another day of ignorance
another day of misconception

and a lifetime (or more) of opportunities to learn what went unlearned this day