Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wrong Track

We spent a fair bit of time in museums last weekend. There were several exhibits we wanted to see and, for once, we had some time go get to them. I was almost through one of the exhibits, Joe takes a little longer to get through as he is compelled to read every single word written either on displays or on little information cards. I am not thusly inclined. Just as I was about to leave I was approached by a woman who I knew was one of those that gave tours of exhibits at the museum. I'd been on a few of her tours in the past. She headed straight for me, by several other people, and arriving said, "I'll be offering a tour in about fifteen minutes if you'd like to attend." I thanked her for the offer but said that Joe and I would be leaving before the tour started.

As I waited for Joe to catch up, I wondered, "Why did she head straight for me? Why was I the only person that she personally invited to attend the tour?" I had seen that she'd not asked anyone else, instead she was gathering up what she needed to be ready for the tour to start. My thoughts ran down a well worn path - my disability makes me special and people often want to show exceptional welcome to prove something to themselves and others. I began to be disgruntled.

Then I thought: If I wrote this, many blog readers would say, "You should have asked, you have no idea what was going on in her mind, you are operating on assumption." I had time and I had the inclination so I went over and said, "May I ask why you kind of singled me out with an invitation to your tour?" She looked flustered for a moment and then said, "Most of the time I give tours, people show interest but they are very shy of asking questions or engaging me. It gets a little boring just listening to myself, you always ask questions and some of them can be quite challenging."

I knew what she meant and remembered once when she showed a portrait and asked that we notice the diversity of people shown. I asked if 'diversity' really is the right word for a group of people that all looked well fed and despite other differences, none had any kind of disability at all. We then engaged in a discussion about what diversity means both in art and literature. It was fun and many on the tour became involved. So, yes, I do ask questions.

"I saw you here," she said, "and I thought it might be nice to have someone along that I know will ask questions and maybe even spark debate."


OK then.

Had nothing to do with my disability at all.

Slowly backing away from that train of thought. 


Anonymous said...

It's good to see that you have the self awareness to challenge your own presumptions. However it sometimes dismays me how often you immeditaely jump to the negative conclusion.

Without asking, the obvious conclusion was that she simply recognised you as someone she had previously presented a tour to!

Immediately having the negative thought in your mind just leads to a negativity of spirit that we can all do without


Moose said...

Sometimes a banana is just a banana :-).

Ceeej said...

I absolutely love that you asked that question - could also have been a challenging question!

wendy said...

First off...to Jim, I am questioning at this very moment whether you have ever been the subject of assumptions or treatment based on a difference of your own. I can tell you that, as a lesbian, I have expienced the same crap enough times to know to anticipate it. I would hardly say that has lead me to "a negativity of spirit". Really, I'm just aware that this is a pattern that has repeated itself many times and probably will again. Seems Dave has discovered this truth in his own experience as well.

With that said, Dave, I'm really glad you asked. What a great answer you got!

Colleen said...

Sought after for your critical thinking skills - gotta love that!

Anonymous said...

Aw. Warm fuzzies! She wanted you along cuz you're COOL! :^) I would be grinning all day if I learned I was as well-regarded.


Rachel in Idaho said...

Jim,trust me when I say it is very easy to assume that being treated differently, be that well or badly, is due to one's disability when 90% of the time it is! I don't think you are being fair to Dave's experiences.

There is a difference between negativity and observing reality. Some of the shit I've dealt with I wouldn't believe happened if I hadn't been there!

Yay Dave for finding a friend! I'd love to go on that tour with you.

Anonymous said...

negativity of spirit... hmm. I think this comment locates the impacts of systemic marginalisation, exclusion and pejorification with the victim.
As someone on the receiving end of these processes for at least 5 aspects of my identity, what I know is that to remain open is to remain vulnerable to an unsafe level.
Negativity of spirit- I guess it can be called that. I would call it worldly wise resignation.
I think the point that Dave makes is essential to NOT falling into negativity of spirit: that is, to remain open to other possibilities and equanimical and gracious in checking this out.
Essential to open heart and faithful spirit.

Andrea S. said...

Ditto to Wendy and Rachel and to anonymous!

Anonymous said...

I note that a view people have commented on my post and wanted to clarify my point. When I used the term "negativity of spirit" perhaps I could have explained my point better, or used a different term.

The point that I am trying to make is that when faced with a situation where you don't have the full information, it is neccessary to fill in some details.

When you fill in these details and come to a negative conclusion, you may feel negative feelings such as anger, frustration or resentment.

If you have got to this position having made assumptions, you are effectively choosing to have these negative feelings.

I personally would rather not be in that position. for this reason, if I don't have the full information with which to arrive at a conclusion, I either clarify the situation or I remain neutral to it.


Rachel in Idaho said...

Come back and tell us about how negative we are when you are put in a position, based in innumerable interactions with the world, where you are pleasantly surprised (after working up the nerve to ask, which is no small thing) to find that your presence was requested because of your personality. When the world regularly takes a crap on you and suddenly it DOESNT it is a remarkable experience.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Jim, I think I understand what you are saying. Even so, I don't feel like I have a 'negative spirit' ... I do have a very 'cautious spirit' because of the routine experience of prejudice. I do not exaggerate to say that it's a daily occurance. I wrote this to remind myself that I may get it wrong sometimes. But because I got it wrong this time doesn't mean I get it wrong all the time.