Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Your Two What?

All I want for Christmas is my two cents worth.

I have a voice. OK. Step one to becoming an equal and participating citizen. Now I need a voice that's HEARD. That's one hell of a big step along the process isn't it? Sometimes I just get so frustrated that I want to yell and swear. I don't. But the urge can be overwhelming.

Joe and I went over for lunch to the mall across the way. It was a bitterly cold day and I was bundled up in hat and scarf and thick sweater. My hands were patriotically covered in the red Canada gloves that are the hit of the season here in Toronto. In the mall, at the food court, I took off my scarf and my sweater and my hat and my gloves. 'You'll lose the benefit of that coat' I hear a parental voice echoing down a corridor nearly 60 years in the making. I follow this commandment without question. After all I didn't listen to the 'don't date boys' edict, I gotta give a little ground.

On our way out I rode up a short elevator ride to the small vestibule just inside the door. This is at one of the city's big intersections and the wind whips through there something terrible. I'm in my shirtsleeves and reaching back to grab my winter stuff out of my bag behind me. A fellow coming in sees me and immediately runs over to where we are, reaches in front of me, and pushes the wheelchair door button. The door swings wide open and the wind whips in. My skin begins to freeze.

'It's OK, I've got to put my coat on.'

'I don't mind,' he says holding the door open.

'No, really, I've got to get my coat on,' I'm struggling to get dressed quickly, not well, cause I'm freaking freezing. He's standing there grinning at me, or at the fact that he's being helpful.

'I've got all the time in the world,' he says still smiling.

Is he high on Christmas cookies?

My sweater is on now Joe is digging around in the bag for my gloves, hat and scarf. I yell now, 'Please, shut the damn door, I'm freezing here.'

He frowns and grumbles something, but he closes the door. I know I should explain to him that I didn't need help just then, that his help was intrusive, that it was winter, it was cold and I needed to put my coat on. But I didn't.

He headed away and I felt bad so I said, 'Thanks anyway!'

He turned, all was well with the world and called out, 'Anytime!'

Yeah, all I want for Christmas is my two cents worth. I'd even pay someone a penny to listen to my thoughts.

All afternoon I've been humming, 'Baby it's cold outside ...'


Anonymous said...

I really struggled with this post. I get it, but I've been helpful a couple of times when it turned out that it wasn't wanted or needed and the impact of that is significant. It means that instead of being prepared to help right away, I consider it first. Sometimes I consider it long enough that it is too late to help b/c I'm afraid that I'll elicit a similar response like those other times. I very much want you and everyone else to be heard about when you want help, but it is such a fine balance b/c I'll bet there are times when you needed help and couldn't get any either. Thanks for sharing, I love a post that makes me think!

Tamara said...

Not that I'm always successful, but I try to practice two skills that both would have been helpful here.

First, ask before helping anyone - disability or not. It's just not always welcome, and you don't always know exactly what's going on and what's needed.

Secondly, when I need something, communicate the exact need or someone may misinterpret. Not everyone processes "It's OK, I've got to put my coat on." to mean "Shut the door; I'm freezing!" especially when they have Christmas spirit and are trying to be good elves!


Andrea S. said...

I'm basically with Tamara. People should ask before they help (unless there is clearly no time whatsoever--if my $500 glass whatever starts to fall, I want someone to just grab it!) And when the prospective "helpee" responds, the "hopeful helper" should listen to the response and follow along (within reason, of course), even if the instructions seem counterintuitive or puzzling or even eccentric. The bodies and minds of people with disabilities, by definition, don't operate quite the same way as everyone else's. This means what helps most non-disabled people might not be so helpful for people with certain types of impairments or might even be dangerous for them.

Meanwhile -- I think Dave was trying to be nice/polite in turning down the assistance, but I'm not sure if I would have interpreted it the way he wanted ("please just close the door!") Maybe. Or I might have heard it as, "I don't want to put you to any trouble by waiting for me." Which is not really the same. Maybe something like, "Thanks, I love that you want to help, but I'd actually prefer if you close the door because I'm freezing! I want to get my coat on first before I come out." ... Of course that takes longer to say, which means you're freezing for longer ...

Princeton Posse said...

Oh, Dave. You're timing is wonderful. Did you see in the news yesterday that Canada Mint is not going to issue pennies? Better get your 2 cents in now before it's a nickel!! LOL Thanks for the post, I do get it (well, most of the time)

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

How frustrating!You have a voice - he just needed a lot of prodding to notice it.

I gotta love your sense of humour Dave - humming Baby Its Cold Outside LOL


Lene said...

Anon - I think the trick is to ask. Don't assume that someone requires a particular type of help, ask if you can help in any way. That offer will almost always be greeted with a smile and a thank you. Sometimes, the person will need help, sometimes they won't, but it is - as Dave so brilliantly illustrates in this post - the ability to choose whether you want to help and then request the correct kind of assistance that is crucial.

lillytigre said...

I've been in this situation and snapped at people too and then instantly felt bad. Once when I was my Mom who then chastised me for the rest of the day for being mean to the person who was only trying to help. I did feel just terrible but I've also discovered in my life that sometimes when I say no thank you. People INSIST on helping anyway "oh it's not a problem, I can..." I usually end up getting hurt in those instances. Once when I slipped on the ice getting out of a cab the driver insisted he would PICK me up and set me on my feet. I kept saying please just let me get up. I have CP just throwing me on my feet doesn't allow me time to balance. He kept insisting and did just that. RIGHT BACK ON THE ICE :) And drove off. I fell again and had a hairline fracture of my ankle for his "help" He' went off feeling like he'd done his duty by helping me and I have an ankle that still hurts years later.
I don't blame him but it is a very hard thing to strike a middle of the road with. Sometimes I could really use the help and it bothers me when I'm struggling and people watch and do nothing. And sometimes though I know people mean well they get offended greatly when I say I've got it but thanks for asking...

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous, if you aren't sure if you should help, just ask. "Can I help you with that?" goes a long way.

It would be so nice if everyone would learn to ask first, before trying to help. And if they were willing to take "No, thank you" as an answer.

It's lovely that people want to help, but all too often, its not the right kind of help for one reason or another. And all too often people are offended if their help is declined.

But reading this, I realize that I need to work on my own reactions. It's not always easy to keep declining the same thing over and over again.

Btw, Dave, I don't always have anything to say in the comments, but I read your blog everyday, and really appreciate what you have to say.


Anonymous said...

I have been in the "door situation" many times. For me, often it is that I am intentionally waiting outside because it is too stinky/toxic for me inside (due to my MCS), and people will insist on opening and holding open the door, thus letting all the fumes rush out and engulf me even more. And there's no easy way to explain this to a stranger. I just say something like, "No thanks, I'm not going in."