I got a talking to.
I "lost a fan forever."
I watched a back walk away from me, steps echoing angrily in the carpeted hallway.
Flustered, upset and, I'll admit, a bit of annoyance ran through me. I don't like the assault time of confrontation. But, let's back up and let me tell you what led up the the incident.
I was touring around the book tables at the conference I was at, I'd stopped to wait patiently in line to see something, there was a fellow slightly ahead of me and a browser in front of him. When the browser moved, I indicated that he was there first, to go head. He said, jokingly, "Oh, I wouldn't step in front of a big man like you." I smiled at the joke and said again, "No, you were here first go ahead." Then he started in on me, "But you are so big, I should let you go ahead, it's dangerous to be in front of someone so big ..." He was smiling saying all this but I got annoyed, inside I'm thinking, "shut the fuck up and look at the table," what I did say was, "I find this whole conversation offensive, I think I'll just leave and come back later." I turned and sped away to the ubiquitous excuse, "I didn't mean anything by it."
And it was over in my mind.
I saw him a couple times later during the conference and always nodded a "hello" to him. He nodded back. He and I had an unpleasant interchange, on both parts, I would imagine, and we moved on. I'm not one to carry a grudge about it. I've not the room in my pockets, what with glasses, wallet and my noon pills.
So, imagine my surprise.
I'm grabbed during a moment alone by a woman who is seething with anger. She said that she saw the interaction with the fellow and thought I was highly rude. She said that at this conference I should be careful because some of the people there have intellectual disabilities and I should have extra special patience and understanding. She was horrified and disappointed in me.
I don't follow.
I wasn't rude - he was. I didn't yell at him, swear at him, hurt him in any ways, I just said that I found the discussion offensive and left. I was pleasant to him in all following interactions.
I told her that I was offended by the idea that people with intellectual disabilities should live by a separate set of social rules because a separate set of social rules leads to living a separate life. I didn't know if the man had a disability or not and it didn't matter. I wanted him to go ahead, I wanted him to shut up with the loud, and unending remarks about my size, when he didn't I told him why I was leaving and I left.
My hope, no matter who this guy is, no matter if he has a disability or not, is that maybe next time he'll handle the situation a little differently. Maybe he will realize that a long drawn out, and loud, joke about someone's appearance isn't really socially acceptable. Maybe with a few similar interactions he'll learn better how to get along with people at a public gathering ... disability or not.
I don't know why we let people with disabilities (and others) get away with socially bombastic or rude behaviour and then expect them to somehow manage to get into friendships and relationships.
I wasn't thinking about teaching.
I just wanted to stop something that I was finding uncomfortable and offensive.
If it does more. Good.
I tried to tell her that people with disabilities need the same learning experiences as everyone else. She said, just before walking away, "No, what they need is patience and love."
I tell you true, it's this attitude that has lead to people with disabilities getting lots of patience and little love.