Friday, November 16, 2012

Space Cadet

Yesterday I saw something cool.

We stopped for a cup of tea, not knowing then that the search for an accessible bathroom was going to test the exact capacity of my bladder. So we sipped tea at our table and talked about trip nearing an end. As we talked a fellow using a scooter pulled up to a table near us. H managed to steer his scooter with one hand and carry his drink in his other. He set it down, pushed a chair out of the way and then got the scooter right where he wanted it.

He took a sip of his coffee.

Then he pulled a bag out of a bag. A small string bag was then strung between the arm of the wheelchair and the knob on the chair he'd placed out of the way. It hung suspended between the two. Then he pulled a series of pens and pencils out and began to sketch something on the table, taking his time on his drawing. The bag was used constantly and it was perfectly in his reach.

Now, so I don't upset readers by commenting on this, what I liked wasn't his ability to drive the scooter, or place his tea, or draw his drawing. I liked, really liked, his complete control of his space. I find as a disabled person I don't often feel like I own space in the way that non-disabled people seem to own theirs. I feel, in the way. I feel like I'm taking up space that belongs to someone, anyone, other than me. Not this fellow. He simply used the space in the same same way that anyone else would. It was like he had no problem 'belonging' or 'claiming' or 'being' where he was, without apology.

Sitting there, with Joe, someone stepped behind me brushing against the bag on the back of my chair. I immediately felt like I had to apologise. There was lots of space. They weren't paying attention. They ran into me, but I felt like I was the problem, the space I took theirs not mine.

I watched this man, comfortably, casually using space. In reality he took up no more space than anyone else at the table would have taken. He had moved the chair just so - just so it wouldn't be in the way but would be perfect for hanging one end of the string bag. He had the kind of confidence that I want. He had the kind of sense of citizenship that I crave. He had what self esteem brings - the ability to occupy, fully, his own skin, and to occupy, fully, his own space.

I want, even for fifteen minutes, even just once, to be like him.


Anonymous said...

I certainly can relate to some aspects of your account. I've always been a big person. From grade 3 and on. I was super-sensitive on how much "space" I took. I was always apologizing, even when someone else bumped into me. Somehow I felt I didn't deserve the room I took up. And, being totally honest, I did (and do) take up more space than "average". Yet - after my head injury, and perhaps with a little age thrown in there - I no longer feel quite the same. I am aware of my surroundings and purposely do not "park" myself in the way - nor block an aisle or door. I sense those behind me and let the faster traffic pass. But, I do not apologize. In fact - if someone bumps into me - to be open - I tend to get annoyed at them. I'm not saying it is good to get annoyed, especially if it was an accident - but I find it interesting that I no longer feel the need to apologize. Call it growth or grumpiness - I just like to think my inside has grown to match my outside - and I deserve the space I need.

theknapper said...

You will

wheeliecrone said...

Me, too, Dave. I feel like I am in the way. All the time. I am not a particularly big person. That's not it. I have never felt entitled to - take up any space.
I automatically apologise when someone runs into me. I don't understand why. They weren't looking where they were going, but I apologise.
If you find a way to fix this, please let me know. I would like to feel that I am entitled to take up space on this earth, sometime before I leave it.

SCG said...

Hi Dave,
Nobody can tell you how to think or feel, but personally it breaks my heart that you feel that way. There are many different mobility devices, makes and models, shapes and sizes that might make the physical space issue a little less daunting but the bigger issue is how you feel "guilty". Stop it right now! You deserve as much space as you need. If someone walks into your wheelchair ... It is not your fault... If you are blocking the way for some reason, all they need to do is politely ask you if you could move a little.... like we do for anyone, mobility device or not.

Jayne wales said...

I was just talking to my neighbour today who was saying exactly this. How little room she is supposed o take up. However people don't seem to mind using her space, deliberately going into the wider one space wheelchair cashier point. No one challenges it and she just puts up with it. So struggling on her crutches which is so painful with her arthritis and fractured hip someone kicks the back of her heel . Just not looking and so busy nd so uncaring. You know they did not even notice and she cried out between her teeth and pain and dred not turn round. An elderly lady struggling. How dare that happen! Wish I had been with her.

Unknown said...

I know kind of what you feel like, I have always had 0 confidence and had to watch what others do to feel as though I would know what to do.
That being said though, I wish there were a couple hundred people just like you.