Friday, August 23, 2013

Me And My Mouth

He was waiting in line before she got behind him. This fact needs to stay in your mind as you read this little story. He had a few grocery items in a small bag held in his left hand. His right arm was used to steady himself, with an arm brace, as he stood. I headed towards the same line not because it was short, though it was, but because it was the accessible check out and I need the space to get through. A woman, about my age, was headed towards the same spot. She got there first.

She noticed his brace and her eyes went from brace to face, brace to face, as if she was trying to figure out how to understand how a young handsome man came to be using an assistive device. As the fellow in front of the fellow was finishing gathering his bags, the gentleman with the crutch moved forward. The woman tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I'll let you go first."


Really, um?

He already was in front of her.

His gaze was steely. He swung his eyes to her. I tensed up. I could guess what he was feeling. Forced into gratitude for a gift that wasn't given.


She looked to him as if waiting to be thanked.

He took a breath.

I waited.

What was he going to do or say?

What would I do or say?

What would you do or say?

He turned from her, took the items out of his bag and finished placing them on the belt. He said nothing. Unfortunately she wanted something from him, "Really," she said, "I don't mind you going ahead." She moved closer as if to make it look like she had let him pass to get to the space.

I saw his shoulders tense and I COULDN'T TAKE THE PRESSURE.

I said, "He was here first, you aren't letting him go ahead. He. Was. Here. First. He doesn't need to thank you."

There was a tense moment. I saw the clerk, someone we have been served by many times before give me a little wink - like she was glad I'd spoken up.

His eyes swung to me, now I felt horrible for butting in, apology leapt to my lips. Instead he said, "I will thank you, I would have said something I regretted later."

The woman stood, mortified, between us.

Sandwiched in, surrounded by disability, she just said, "Sorry, I don't know what made me do that."

He said, "No harm done."

I nodded even though I didn't agree.


Anonymous said...

Oh to be that gracious!!

Anonymous said...

I am glad you spoke up... I follow a mantra of "Silence is acceptance" in situations such as this.

When I read the comment he made: "No harm done"- I was reminded of situations where I have intervened in disputes between clients I have worked with-and also in my personal relationships... the kind where one says they are "sorry" for whatever the reason. On so many occasions the victim responds with "Oh, that's okay" I encourage the individual to respond differently.. instead of saying "that's okay" (which translates to - "do it again" because that's okay.) I encourage them to say "Don't do it again"
(which translates to - "I don't like it when you do/say what you did and I want you to know that").

Thank You Dave... for speaking up ALWAYS!!! :)

Shan said...

That is just weird. I guess you're right: some people really do get their jollies out of being thanked, and getting to perceive themselves as magnanimous.

Anonymous said...

My hope is that she was very un-elegantly hitting on him.. cute guy with a brace.

Jayne Wales said...

I think that was just great!
I am in that mood today to tell a few people what I think. I loved that vicariously.

Jo Kelly said...

This story made me laugh - it's kind of like when you've just gone through a doorway and someone comes running up to hold it - are you obliged to say thank you? I don't. At times I can feel the eyes burning in my back as I leave the scene.....LOL.

Glee said...

Another ripper post Dave. Thanks.

Anonymous- I don't always want to be gracious but sometimes it really knocks the socks off people when you are lol.

TMc yes I truly believe that "Much prejudice is at the unconscious level". Gee I know some I have at the conscious level and I work at not being prejudice, so goodness knows what's at the unconscious level. I have tried to explain that we are all ableist at some level and that mostly it is subconscious so not realised. But people will not have it and are adamant that they do not discriminate against nor think less of people living with disability. Their fear of shame is more than their fear of the prejudice they might find if they truly looked. Such a shame really.

B. said...

Very thought provoking. Could it be that she totally botched what she thought was a pick-up/flirtation line? You said he was handsome.

CL said...

I'm so glad you said something. I've noticed that lines are one of those places where people who have society exercise their power and privilege, and for the most part nobody does anything about it. But those moments feel really crappy. Every time a pushy man blatantly cuts in front of me (I'm a woman) I feel this rage that is out of proportion considering that I only have to wait two extra minutes -- because violating the first come, first served principle is a way of subtly pushing people down.

Her assumption that she would get to cut in front of him, except that she was being "kind" and not doing it, is really something -- but sadly not surprising considering how aggression seems to come out in line situations.

Deb said...

Good grief, there HAS to be something in the water in Ontario!

Kristine said...

That's just bizarre. And I'm so glad you said something! I imagine she actually did spend some time asking herself, "Why did I do that??" Regardless of what conclusions or justifications she came up with, getting somebody to question themself is a pretty big step.

wheeliecrone said...

Your mouth does good work, Dave.