Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Travel Quiz

I do not butt into lines. Even though, because I have a disability, I'm often offered the chance to do so, I don't. I don't mind waiting my turn. I am, after all, comfortably seated. A couple days before we were to leave for the United Kingdom, I went to the bank to pick up some Pound Sterling bank notes. There was a long line up and I did what I do, I said to the fellow standing last in line, "I'm behind you, OK?" He nodded. Then when the next person who came in and entered the windy labyrinthine line up I said, "I'm in line up behind him and in front of you, I'm just waiting here because the pathway is simply to narrow for my chair." It's all very convivial and it suits me fine.

So I sat, off to the side and began to wait. Everyone in the line heard these conversations, and besides it's boring standing in line and this provides some bloody good entertainment. But then, something odd happened. Every single person for the next 6 turns, I know this to be 6 cause I counted, offered me the opportunity to go ahead. Every single person who offered was thanked for the offer and I said, "I'll wait my turn." Then lucky number sever, turned to me and smiled, she said, "I'm going to do you a favour and not offer you a chance to go on ahead." I laughed, she did too. And then it was solidified. No one else offered and I simply took my turn when it was my turn.

I've been thinking about this whole incident recently, particularly after a few days of intensive travel. Airports, airplanes, shuttle buses, and hotels. There are so many times when people are genuinely kind, and genuinely want to help out. There are so many times when people 'permission get' before they help. But there are also so many times when people seem to really want to offer help, no matter what I say and what I do. Think of those people in line, 5 of those people who offered me a turn to go first heard me say 'no' to the person ahead of them.

What is that dynamic?

Why did they offer?

I have my ideas, I'd like to hear yours.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting observation. Would probably make a good study.

I wonder...I wonder whether it was just checking to see if you are still ok waiting - not wanting to ignore your needs, which could be beyond the obvious (like bladder/bowel - the hidden issues).

OR was it just a social pressure situation. Where they thought - "The guy ahead of me offered - I'll look like an insensitive jerk if I don't." Peer pressure - never stops.

I wonder if you, and I'm sorry - I'm not trying to put everyone else's behaviours on your shoulders - but I do wonder if you had been clearer about when your turn was - for example: "Thank you for your offer. I'll wait my turn which is after the gentle man in the red sweatshirt and before the lady with the green coat." Then folks know the perimeters of their waiting.

I'm sure you do that in your talks - give people outlines and estimations on the length, for it gives people something to "hang their hat on". If the people in line knew the extent of your awareness (not knowing if your disability "may" include some mental aspects and may not grasp when your turn was) then they would also relax.

Just some thoughts.

Mary said...

My solve-it line in queueing scenarios is "it's okay, I was sensible enough to bring a chair."

It doesn't *always* work, but a lot of the time, especially when the person offering to me that I can butt in is offering because they hate queueing, and the thing they hate about queueing the most is having to stand still, shifting from one aching foot to the other. If I can get them past "this person is in a wheelchair, they must be ill/in pain/have had a terrible accident/etc" and along to "actually, she is sitting pretty comfortably."

I still like them offering, though. There are times when I'm very ill and every extra minute of trying to sit upright and be capable of speaking represents an extra 15 minutes of pain and exhaustion once I get home. In those instances I assume I look as ill as I feel and will very gratefully accept.

You're spot-on that it's weird for six consecutive people to do it though. Two, maybe.

Janelle said...

Hmm, I understand that it must be difficult to be offered assistance/help/favours when you're clearly seeking none. However, I'd like to think they did it for the right reasons. If nothing else, I know I'd tell myself that some of their desire to be patient and wait in line longer would cancel out a few of the many acts of impatience that take place when you're in a wheelchair. Yes, for there to be that number I'm sure some peer pressure was involved, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Other people's actions made others take note and remember to try to be courteous. Yes, I'd rather that come through for perfectly altruistic reasons, but I see it as a start. Certainly you didn't need to be let in front, but I can think of many people who might. I must note though, I think it's lovely that you don't take advantage of what is being offered. Given that my sister uses a wheelchair, we determined years ago that her parking pass would be used sparingly and only when it would be necessary for her (during illness or in snowy conditions). However, you wouldn't believe how many people in parking lots try to tell us we could park closer. I try to remind them that neither of us will be negatively impacted by having further to go. Yet, I always feel it was nice they stopped to think about it. It gets a bit irritating to be offered help continuously, but having been in many situations where help wasn't offered when needed, I try to take it with grace and an understanding that people truly don't know what to do. Anyways, hope your trip is fabulous!

Tamara said...

Sometimes I think that we're just living in a confused time where disability is still kind of "coming out" and no one is sure what they're supposed to do.

Just like people with disabilities, people without disabilities are unique human beings. They can do the exact same thing for a totally different reason.

I was wondering if the 7 people who offered you a place in line were all around a similar age?

I know that my mother could be extremely annoying when people came to visit. Even if totally taken by surprise the hour before she was going to the grocery store, she would find something to eat to offer to you and ask and ask and ask and ask until you agreed to eat it.

I don't know if that's how her mother was or if she just thought that was what was expected of her as a "hostess" or what. But, she was unrelenting. If she saw you in line, she might insist you take the place in front of her because she thought it was the right thing to do.

And I bet even you could not refuse her. :-)

Anonymous said...

Maybe they felt that because you couldn't wait in line with them--that the waiting space was too narrow to accommodate your chair--that you should not be expected to wait.

Or maybe because you were in everyone's line of vision, instead of just another body in a queue, they saw you as set apart from the queue--an "other"--and felt compelled to give you special treatment because of your chair.

As for why 6 people in a row offered--I think Anon#1 got it right; peer pressure, and being afraid of looking callous for not offering like everyone else.


Anonymous said...

hey Dave, Hopefully the ignorance of Ann Coulter has missed your attention, but for all fellow Americans( and I use that term with great reservation for her) - I apologize ahead for her ignorance......

CapriUni said...

Well, being an imperfect mind-reader, I can only guess.

But I have a notion that "hearing" and "registering" are two distinct things that sometimes (but far too rarely) intersect.

The good thing about human culture is that it gives us templates of expected behavior, so we can interact with total strangers in a strange environment and still know mostly what to expect, so we don't have to be in a state of constant terror.

The bad thing about human culture is that it gives us templates of expected behavior, so we act out of (often misguided) habit rather than what's actually going on around us.

In this case (maybe) the templates the first six people were working from were: "People in Wheelchairs need help with everything they do," coupled with "Offering your place in line is helpful," even though the first isn't true and the second makes no sense in this case (it might for a mother with a fidgety baby on her hip, though). However, because the first six people in line were so flustered by seeing someone so "out and proud" with his disability, they were paying more attention to those templates in their heads to the situation they were in.

And the seventh person was working with the template: "If someone says 'no thank you' to an offer, that means they don't want it." And she was unflustered enough to actually perceive what was happening (perhaps she lives with an out disabled person).

Anonymous said...

I think Anon#1 was right about the peer pressure. However after your 2nd or 3rd refusal I think it got a bit weird. Had I been 3rd in line I would have made an amusing comment like 7th in line did to stop it. Sometimes people don't know how to handle the disabled and go overboard with courtesy.

Anonymous said...

I think five people wanted to look as ‘nice’ as person number 1 who offered you to go first.
Person number 2 failed to see that making the offer again, that had been refused, wasn’t nice, it was about them not you.
Person number 7 saw it differently, and hopefully person number 8 onwards could see that too.
I hope. But I suspect they don’t.
BCOS WE JUST DONT SEE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES- we see disability and what it means to me, not the person.
That’s what I think happened.

Anonymous said...

If it had been me in line--well in real life, I wouldn't have overheard the people in front because I'm deaf! :-) But pretending for a moment that I could overhear (say if it were an all-signing environment), I might have offered to let Dave go ahead simply out of uncertainty about where he was supposed to be in line. So POSSIBLy one or two of those six people had a similar reason. But I doubt it would be true for all of them.

For the person who suggested that Dave should have been more precise about where he was in line, I don't think it was his responsibility to volunteer that information. Once the person he's talking to knows that Dave belongs somewhere behind them, why should they care exactly where? I know Anonymous #1 was thinking that Dave should have been clearer for the sake of the OTHER person in line listening. But it strikes me as a bit odd to share that information with the person you're talking to just so other people who might not even be paying attention MIGHT hear you and MIGHt register. I think it really should be up to the next person in line to highlight their uncertainty by saying something like, "I happened to hear you talking to the person in front of me. Do you have a particular spot in line you're waiting for?" Then Dave could have said.

Who is right I'm not sure. Tamara COULD be right for at least one or two, but again I suspect probably not for all (even if they WERE all the same age, people are just so diverse that way.)

But I suspect that CaprilUni may have come the closest to guessing what was going on with the majority of those people who kept offering their place in line. Or at least, she has the guess that seems the most plausible to me.

Cynthia F. said...

Dave, I went to graduate school with a nun whose order had switched from habits to plain clothes and she said it was a great relief because when she wore a habit and was so visibly a nun, people always wanted to let her cut in line, give her free coffee, comp her meals in restaurants, etc. She said "I gave myself to God to do service for others and they always wanted to put me ahead of themselves!" It was apparently a distraction. Now she can do good and serve others without so much fanfare or feeling like she's getting undeserved rewards.

Of course once I learned she was a nun I kept trying to do nice things for her anyway! Even though I'm an atheist personally, I have great respect for her dedication to serving the poor and I wanted to recognize and reward her for that.

Also, sometimes it just feels nice to be generous. But I understand and agree with your belief that pitying disabled people is not the same at all as being generous and helpful. So there could be some combination of motivations there, it's complicated!