Sunday, January 02, 2011

Why Friendship Ends With a Pee

On our way from our New Year's break at a hotel up north we stopped to have tea with friends. For most of the holidays we've had to cancel social events due to Joe's cough, so it was nice when we got up to a quiet morning. Joe was finally breathing easier and coughing less. We stopped at Starbucks and found that the Chapters that it was attached to was closed. This meant that there was now no accessible entry into the coffee shoppe. It was a struggle, particularly getting through the doors in. There was no automatic door opener and there was precious little space on the sidewalk to manoeuvre. It was tough but we got in.

Then we ordered our coffees and our teas and sat about talking. The talk veered from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the spiritual to the frivolous, we laughed - a lot. It was terrific fun. I love those times you have with friends when the world shrinks so small that the only people in it are those at your table. Others came and went. Others may have looked over with annoyance at our exuberant laughter or cringed at the subjects we spoke about - I don't know, I don't care.

When we were all set to leave, we discovered to our mutual surprise that we'd been there for two and a half hours. We were silent none of that time. We struggled for things to talk about not once. It was a wonderful afternoon of chatter. As with all good conversation, I learned about my friends, I learned about myself, I thought differently about somethings and became more resolved in others. Someone once suggested that a good conversation was like 'dining at the buffet of ideas' ... well, it was an 'all you can eat' affair.

As it was time to go, I wanted to go to the bathroom before leaving. I'd had a huge cup of tea. The largest they had, they call it some odd foreign word for 'the largest we have' and I've never learned it. I will not learn a word that is created by a corporation to be used only in their store - nope I won't. So there.

Back to having to pee.

Disabled people are forced to talk about toilets and toileting more than anyone else. We have to find out if places have accessible washrooms. We have to check out the 'pee and poo' situations of hotel rooms, theatres, coffee shops, restaurants, malls. It's almost routine now. I've never gotten used to this. I don't like talking to strangers about toilets.

We'd had such a nice time with our friends that I stopped at the door and in a moment of pure trust I said, 'It doesn't take me long to pee.' Joe's jaw almost dropped to the floor. My friends stared in a kind of amused horror. Joe asked, 'Where are you going with this?' I started to say that I'd like them to stay and help with the doors but part way in they understood what I was wanting and they cheerfully agreed to wait for me to do my business and then they held doors and made my egress much simpler than my ingress.

And you know what?

It didn't bother me. Cause 'that's what friends are for' ... these were not disinterested strangers, these were not bored and hostile employees, these were not those paid to be in service, these were those willing to be in service. What a difference that makes.

There is a role for salaried help, no question. But it's nice when one has those who are just willing because they love you. It's nice to have those who hold doors as a gift rather than those who open doors because it's on a job description.

So my friends now know I'm a quick pee-er who occasionally needs a bit of extra help ... and I know my friends are patient souls. Oddly, I think we both benefit from what we learned about each other.


Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says -

Oh, Lordy, the opportunities for personal growth that I have had concerning toilets. Having to ask total strangers to help with doors to toilets - well the first thousand times I had to do it, I felt, ummm, somewhat compromised somehow. But I have gotten over that.
It is just another facet of wheelchair usage - the accessible toilet search. And the war of the doors.

AkMom said...

Apparently I am a strange non-challenged (or whatever I should call myself...) person. If I saw you (or more likely your female counterparts) struggling in the restroom, I would offer to hold a door, block a view (if said door was obstinate), turn on the water.......heck, if need be, I'd flush for you when you were finished!

I'm glad you have friends like that, I'm happy you had an amazing 2 1/2 hour tea break.

Happy New Year!

Lene Andersen said...

in my experience, there is nothing like talking about toilet needs to get someone to understand what it's like to have a disability.

Love those times with friends. Nothing better.

Andrea S. said...


There doesn't seem to be a term for "non-challenged" that is *quite* yet in universal usage. "Able bodied" comes close in terms of usage, though some people criticize this for being centered on the absence of physical disabilities. (Most deaf people, for example, are technically "able bodied" in that they can walk, etc.) while ignoring, for example, psychosocial or intellectual disabilities. Some people use the term "neurotypical" for people with "standard" neurological wiring (ie, not autistic, not ADHD, etc.), though in some circles it tends to most frequently mean "non-autistic." Deaf people refer to people who can hear as "hearing" people. I've seen the term "sighted" used to refer to people who can see, though I think I've also seen "seeing people."

One tongue-in-cheek term that I like is "disability impaired" (... but still humor-gifted) :-) ... but that's not in standard use, just an amusing play on words.

Kristin said...

I'm glad you have friends like that. And, I'm with AkMom, I'd be right there offering to help. Don't know if it's because I have medical training or it's because that is how I was raised but helping out wouldn't phase me.

Anonymous said...

Andrea S. --

One term I've come across is "temporarily fully abled". I rather like the reminder that whatever state one may be in, it's only temporary.

Kind of like a Buddhist t-shirt I once saw that read "Future corpse". (And wow, did that tick some people off. Some people really don't like being reminded of such things.)

Anonymous said...

If disabled folks talk about toileting more than any other group, I'd say that out-and-proud trans folks are next in line, haha. When I walked with a cane, I became very aware of the mechanics of bathroom accessibility. When I finally quit pretending to be someone I'm not (in terms of gender), I became very aware of finding a socially safe bathroom. It's funny how much the two overlap.

- Parker

AkMom said...

Andrea S:

I love the idea of being Disability Challenged, thank you!!