Friday, October 19, 2012

I Sh*t You Not

I shit you not.

This happened.

We were at the gate, Joe was finishing breakfast, I wandered over to the gift shop to do a bit of last minute shopping. Joe asked that I pick up the Toronto Star, his preferred paper, and I said that I'd do it. I got it first. Then I picked up a gift for our host and a magazine and I was done. I went over to the counter to pay. A woman waved me round to another register, I rolled over, then she decided that she didn't want to open it and asked me to roll back. It wasn't far but I was annoyed. Another said they could transfer the transaction from one debit machine to another, no problem, I didn't have to move.

The transaction was transferred. Because of the lighting, because I was sitting, it was difficult for me to see the numbers on the machine. I always insist on seeing what cost has been entered, there have been mistakes, so I was tipping the screen back and forth to see it. The woman approached, reached right into my space and pushed the green 'OK' button saying, "You push this button."

I was stunned. It is hard to shock me with anything regarding what people will do to people with disabilities. But I was shocked. I told her that I hadn't seen the number, she said that everything was right. I told her it so wasn't 'right'. I let her know that I was horrified by what she had done. I couldn't imagine her doing what she did to any other customer in the store - that what she did she felt she had permission to do because I had a disability and she saw me as a helpless child. She leapt on the word and said, "Yes, I was trying to help you."

"It isn't help it's humiliation and I'm disturbed you can't see the difference."

One of the other clerks came around and said, firmly as if to an errant child, "She was trying to help you." I looked at her and said, "You don't know what happened, I do. I don't need your help right now either." And then, AND THEN, she laughed at me. Right out loud laughed at me. She caught the eyes of others and they joined her rolling their eyes at the upset disabled guy.

I shit you not.

This happened.

No one got it. Something so fucking simple, No one got it. I can't imagine another person in the same situation not being outraged. I thought I was doing well to keep this from being a shouting match. I didn't shout. I didn't swear. I just kept firmly saying that what happened was wrong. And it's so clearly wrong. Unambiguously wrong. That it stuns me. It stuns me what people feel my disability gives them permission to do. To push the OK button on a sale at a store without my permission, without my request, without my knowing the amount being charged ... is simply obviously wrong.

Where was someone to say, "Hey, he's got a point."

Why were people all automatically on the side of the clerks. Is it really that much 'them and us.' Is there really a perception that typical, not exceptional but typical, respect doesn't apply to people with disabilities. She pushed the fucking OK button.

So, I voided the sale.

I rode out with the phone number of the store and I will be making a formal complaint. But that won't give me my dignity back.

I shit you not.

That happened.


Claire said...

WOW. That is just awful. I'm shocked. I've had cashiers point to the pad, offer instructions, etc., but NEVER has anyone reached over to push buttons FOR me. I also don't have any visibly obvious disabilities.

Claire said...

Those cashiers are in need of an attitude adjustment.

Unknown said...

Hey Dave, my name is Blaze dobson and I just read your do, be, do book and I am very inpsired by the book. I am also a student at College of the Rockies and Louise is currently my teacher. Just gotta say that your book has helped teach me a lot of things about people. I really enjoyed it

Dave Hingsburger said...

Well Blaze, you certainly learned about effective reinforcement!! Thanks, I love that kind of feedback. Say 'Hey' to Louise.

Louise said...

That is truly shocking. It makes me think how vulnerable some of the people I support would be in that situation - perfectly well able to use a payment card, but likely to assume that something a shop assistant does is likely to be OK. And it would never have occurred to me to teach that this might happen!

It won't help, of course, but my own prejudice would always be to be on the side of the person with disabilities, until I have all the facts which might show otherwise. Sadly, it's very likely that they are the person being wronged.

Mary said...

I'm sorry that happened to you. I had a similar incident once where someone took my whole wallet out of my hands "to get the right money out" and got huffy when I snatched it back.

I get what you mean about it being difficult to find the words when you've been violated like that. It's your money, and things like the card and the PIN are all measures intended to make sure you're the only one spending it! A big chunk of your brain is going "surely this did not just happen!" and that makes it near impossible to process the situation until it's over and you're shaking with shock and rage.

I hope your complaint is taken seriously, although this sentence is typed with the slouched shoulders of resignation and lack of hope. (Could just be cos I'm on the first cup of tea of the day.)

On a more constructive note, if you'll be using your debit card while you're this side of the pond, be aware most of the checkout card machines here do actually come right out of their holders and it makes them SO much easier to use from wheelchair height (and tall person height, and sunshine angles). Not all of them, so you probably shouldn't just tug them - but if you say to the cashier "does the machine come out?" then nine times out of ten they'll pop it out of the holder and pass it to you with the bored, glazed-eyed, "rather be anywhere than here" look that is the hallmark of UK customer service. Equality in mediocrity and all that.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't believe that happened to you because it happened to me once - and I was as shocked as you. I didn't void it - but you can be sure I checked the printout very carefully. Talk about entering into someone's personal space! Good for you. Joe didn't get his paper - but I'm sure he rather you make your point.

Anonymous said...

That is awful.

Anonymous said...



Faery said...

Oh my goodness! I'm really sorry Dave to hear that this has happened. And Mary - I cannot believe that someone would take your wallet from you to 'help'. Absolutely disgusting behaviour!

I often take time at checkouts too, as my hearing impairment means that I don't always hear the amount quoted to me. I like to be able to see the numbers for clarification and it's not always apparent on the screen.

I was under the impression that, since the introduction of chip and pin (in the UK at least) store clerks are not allowed to take your card or the machine during a transaction? Perhaps I'm wrong though. I'd be interested to find out. I hope that the complaint is taken seriously and that people are educated as a result of this.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Unfreaking believable!

Patronizing you is bad enough but ridicule??? Oh Dave I am just speechless. I know you don't want to have to always be lodging complaints but these people need to be called on this. How dare they!


Moomin Girl said...

Dave, I believe you!

I have had so many unacceptable things done to me since I started using a wheelchair that I am saddened and outraged by your story, but not surprised.

Nan said...

Oh man, time to leave the country! Oh, you are. Well, maybe time to stay away? Honestly, if I had been there why I woulda ... (originally came to let you know that I linked to an old post of yours here... on a piece Jessie wrote on my blog, where I then commented to lead people to you ... Hope that's okay.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you lost your dignity, Dave. You kept calm, voided the sale, and will be making a complaint that hopefully will result in consequences and re-education to those clerks.

I have to wonder if it isn't actually ILLEGAL to forcibly interfere in someone else's monetary transaction.


Naomi said...

Pretty sure it is illegal to conduct a financial transaction on behalf of another without their consent, pretty sure it is called fraud. While I have no doubt the assistant will believe she was doing the right thing, the law says otherwise. Disabled or not, every human being has the right to transact for themselves. Keep on standing up Dave, not only for yourself, which matters, but for those who endure the same and can't battle like you do. Thank you for your endurance.

Anonymous said...

Part of me is going, GRR! ARGH! GRR! on your behalf,

Part of me is *sigh*-ing in resignation because I get so tired of things like this happening again and again ... and then we (people with disabilities) try to speak out about it ... and instead of apologies, we get the aggravatingly blank looks of people who can't understand whyever on Earth we would be upset.

Except, oh wait, this wasn't just another one of the thousand blank looks of confusion I've seen in my life when I've tried to point out instances of disablism. This zipped right past all that to laughter and ridicule, which is even worse. GRR! ARGH! GRR!

I admire your tenacity in so persistently writing complaints after events like this. (And yes I know there have been times when you've let things go, you've mentioned them at this blog, but you deserve to take a break from all this at times. I still admire that you keep at it as often as you do.)


Blazer said...

not a problem Dave, I will say hi to her when I see her. I also have to say I'm sorry about what happened to to you earlier. It makes me upset ehrn people do things like that.

Anonymous said...


I ammsorry this happend to you. But telling about it made me award that I am certainly sometimes guilty of falling into doing something like this too. I am mentally fast and sometimes very impatient. Imcould be the one acting like this...

Makes me think twice again while interacting with others!


Karen said...

Hello Dave, Nasty what happened to you! Bullies are everywhere.

I'm one of Louise's HSW students at COTR. Louise says, "Howdy", and our whole class wants to know when are you coming to Cranbrook?

One of our class assignments is to read your do be do book (Yay Louise!). I read it twice, and thoroughly enjoyed your humour and honesty. Your insights about working for people with developmental disabilities really applies to everyday life. My sister read your book as well,and was starting to read it again(I had to pry it from her hands,so I could get my assignment completed!), and my 17yr old nephew also wants to read it. We're looking forward to reading more...keep at it - please!...And THANK YOU.

Belinda said...

Dave,words seem inadequate to respond to this experience.How insulting.

The one thing it does, is give a clear view of what it is so easy to do wrongly and then how it can be compounded by adding insult to injury. I bet it happens more often than we imagine every day in the system people with disabilities live in.

wheeliecrone said...

Un-bleeping-believable. Except I do believe you. Because most people with visible disabilities have had some variation of that sort of abuse at some time in our lives.
And it takes me way past angry when it happens to me. It makes me incandescent.
And it clearly made you incandescent. With good reason. I hope that your letter of complaint puts a rocket right up those ignorant, bullying vipers.

Andrea S. said...

Given what you say here, I could see where you might in an impatient moment jump in and take over a little too much.

But if someone then got upset about it, then I can't really see you laughing at them about it. From the various comments I've read from you at this blog, you strike me as a thoughtful person who would at least consider the possibility that the other person has a legitimate objection. And even if you might not understand why right away, you would at least think about it and back off.

So I can maybe see you inadvertently doing something you don't mean, or doing something that others interpret in a way you didn't realize they would (as probably all of us do at some point). But I don't see you adding insult to injury after wards as the cashier did here.

Anonymous said...

Andrea S.,

thank you for your kind comment. But Dave made a very good point for me with his post reminding me why people sometimes act slow; not because they dont know how to do it, but because they want to think things over so nothing is going wrong. Sometimes I do not get this idea and just act fast.

This post made me aware of it and I will try to remember it in the future. So I really learned something important out of it.

And of course I do not try to annoy people on pourpose but sometimes I still do it.


PS. Andrea S. your comments are always very interesting, helpful and welcome to me, because you seem to exactly know what I wanted to say but could not always find the right words for it. Big THANK YOU!

Shan said...

This happens to the elderly all the time, too.

Shan said...

Sorry, a little terse - I meant I've seen it happen to elderly people in stores (including my Dad). The young cashier is trying to hurry things up and presumes you don't understand what's going on with the technology. It's very disconcerting, especially if you DON'T understand what's going on with the technology!

wendy said...

That is absolutely unbelievable! Oh my God. And what's more, we only know about it because you many others have been treated just as badly and haven't written a letter, much less a blog.

I am so sorry that happened to you, Dave. It's just beyond the pale!

Anonymous said...

I will be honest and say that I, as a cashier in my younger days, did this a thousand times if I did it once I honestly never gave it a second thought! It truly never dawned on me that I was, in fact, spending people's money for them. :-(
I like to think I was/am conscientious enough, though, to grasp it when I am told it is offensive, patronizing, etc. and apologize rather than laugh and mock.

Anonymous said...

It's video camera time. Do they have "Canada's biggest fools"? If not submit it to America's funniest home videos. We cannot get enough of people making fools of themselves on TV, start filming these wack-a-do's and I bet not only will their behavior change instantly but you could possibly win $100,000! :)
Because you can't make this shit up.
Have a great day, Happy belated Birthday to Joe