Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Becoming Ordinary

I rolled into the store, like I have many times before, I was greeted, warmly. This stands in stark contrast to my first visit to the store. On first entering, that first time, people weren't rude, but they clearly hadn't seen a man of my size, in a power wheelchair, going about his business. I was gawked at by several of the store employees. No one was outright rude, but no one was outright welcoming either. When I purchased something, that first time, I chatted briefly with the clerk who had that, "Wow, he's kinda like everyone else," look of surprise on her face.

Now? Well, now is different. I'm part of the neighbourhood, part of their customer base. Some know me by name, all know me by sight. I'm greeted always, gawked at - never. I've gone through the transformation from extraordinary to everyday ordinary a thousand times over. In my home neighbourhood, the construction guys building the condo next door simply say 'hello'. They no longer nudge each other and whisper comments to each other as I pass by. The folks at the grocery store know me too, the manager always immediately looks to ensure that the accessible aisles are open because he knows, if they aren't, we'll be chatting about it ... again. The gay guy at the liquor store always has a joke for us. Pretty much everywhere I go, when I go alone, pretty much everyone says, "Where's your partner?"

We've created a few blocks of welcome simply by being out, and doing what we need to do, and engaging people in polite, humorous, banter. They've come to think of Joe and I as 'those nice men'. I'm thought of, I'm sure, as someone who's pleasant but who also expects accessibility and who isn't quiet when it's not available.

We're about to go away for a couple of weeks, we'll be in 9 different cities, not all for work, some just stops on the way from and to, and I need to get ready for the trip. Of course there's all the organisational stuff that needs to be done. But there's also the psychological preparedness. I'm leaving a neighbourhood where I've become ordinary and going to places where gawking will be the norm, discomfort will be the tone of many interactions. Beyond that, I KNOW, inside and out KNOW, every access point to every place that I want to go. I'll be going to places where this is all unknown. Most websites don't mention accessibility. It's all up to chance and a thousand phone calls.

This isn't to say that I don't want to travel or don't like to travel. I'm looking very much forward to the trip, very much forward to the work. It's just that I've got to get ready. Joe will be packing our stuff. I'll be packing the resources I need to cope with being the odd one - out.


Anonymous said...

Safe Trip to you both!

Love Linda ( LInMac in Dublin)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how much packing space that takes up? I adore traveling but have to give myself a day or two afterwards to recover. May your wandering be rewarding!

Vanderlost ViaGPS said...

You are always welcome to come to Calgary David! So excited the world gets to hear your stories and deeply jealous of the Cities that get to!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Colleen, did you know I was born in Olds and have lots of family in Sundre and in Calgary. I've only presented there a couple of times - would love to come back some time. There was a big write up about me in the Olds newspaper a couple years back - one of those 'local boy does well' kind of things.

Anonymous said...

I am hoping you feel the warmth and welcome from each city you visit on your journey... We can't wait to see you both on November 15th :)

Safe travels my friends!

Heidi from PEI :)

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I look less and less forward to going away as I am usually exhausted from prep before I go. By the time I pack my aides, my medicine, my machinery, my special clothes, my special food I am so "done".

It is a challenge to go out of the comfort zone as one works so diligently to create it in the first place!

I'm working hard on not seeing every outing as a challenge, but a joy. At times it just doesn't seem worth it.

There is an ad that comes on TV (and I think I saw it in a theater) that badmouths "normal". "Who wants normal? Normal is boring!" they cry. Inside I am screaming, "I do!" I'd love to go somewhere and only worry about fashion, footwear and funds.

I can relate to your concerns somewhat. I hope it is smooth sailing for you and that all the ordinary things of life will happen in an ordinary fashion so you can concentrate on special times.

Jayne Wales said...

Safe travel and hope that some of the times are really pleasant and fun too.
Take carex

B. said...

I've always felt that same total acceptance from the ParaTranspo drivers here in Ottawa. It's actually a bit of a funny feeling to be totally accepted by someone other than family. Once they've been on the job for a little while I guess they just see people needing a ride somewhere.