We were walking along Bloor Street heading towards home. I was with people I know, nearly but not quite friends, and we were talking and laughing. Suddenly we all noticed a fellow coming towards me, a well dressed, pleasant faced, man. He was making kind of odd throttling gestures with his hands and he was definitely headed for me. Then he made a quick lunge, while still a ways away - maybe two or three feet, and then stormed by me.
I was terrified.
Completely and utterly terrified.
"Did you see that?" I said with a shaky voice. My companions immediately said that they did and how strange the whole thing was.
"I was so scared," I said having trouble keeping my emotions in check.
And then an even odder thing happened. They began joking about how I could just power my chair up and ram into the guy, how I could back over him as he lay on the ground. Further hilarity carried on between the two of them as they laughed and joked about how I could have used my power chair to wreak revenge.
I tried to break in to their conversation, I really needed to be heard, "I felt really vulnerable."
Again they joked it away saying that in my chair I was invincible that I'd have been able to 'take him out.' And, then they were off on more revenge kind of fantasies.
I don't know when I've ever felt so utterly alone.
I am not, I think, a coward. I am, however, controlled. I have had several comments from other wheelchair users here on the blog who write about how if something is in their way - they just push through the barrier and if things fall, so be it. I can only admire that kind of chutzpah. I don't have it. I am mortified and embarrassed if, by accident, I knock something over. In the five years I've had the power chair I've never run into anyone, certainly never purposely, and I'm very, very, careful and aware even if those who walk are completely distracted by 'i-ing' their way down the street. I pads and I pods only means I extra careful.
So I'm not that guy.
And I don't want to be.
I tried a couple more times to get my feelings across because right then I really needed them to listen to me, to acknowledge that what happened was frightening and to give me a sense of their support. I'm sad to say, I didn't get it through.
Maybe they don't see my vulnerability in the way that I feel it.
I don't know.
But right then I understood that my experience as a disabled person often puts me out of reach for ordinary empathy. Maybe.
I felt alone.
And a little lost.