Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Lobby: A One Act Play

The Setting and The Circumstance:

Waiting in the lobby for Joe to bring the car around. Was unable to book a bus ride to work.

The Time:

5:50 AM

The Cast of Characters:

Dave (me)

Older Gent Who is a 'Nodding Acquaintence'

The Conversation:

Me: Looks cold out there.

He: It is. Say, where's your partner?

Me: He's getting the car.

He: Not taking the bus this morning?

Me: No, I couldn't get a booking, I'll need Joe to give me a ride.

He: Do you mind if I ask you something?

Me: (guardedly) No, I don't mind?

He: Are you well?

Me: Pardon?

He: Well, I see you go off to the hospital all the time.

Me: You mean on the bus?

He: Yes.

Me: I'm not going to the hospital, I'm going to work.


Me: Yes, I do.

He: Like at a workshop or something?

Me: No, I'm the Director of Clinical and Educational Supports at a large service agency.

He: Oh. My. I thought ... (trails off)

Me: People assume that because ...

He: (jumping in) I know, that's what I did. I'm going to have to think differently about you.

Elevator arrives, we say goodbye.

The Upshot:

 I was a bit disturbed by the 'think differently about you.' Obviously I've been 'upgraded' in his mind. Upgraded from what I hesitate to think. I rode away in the car with Joe, after telling him about the chat, wondering at how deep ableist thinking goes. He thought he knew me because he saw me. He didn't need to speak to me - he got all his information from bias, misinformation and prejudice - he just had to see me to know me. Meeting me was something different - it shook up his world view. And he's a NICE GUY, but nice guys can have ideas that aren't so nice and maybe insidiously dangerous. Well, today I became and person, not an idea; a human being not a collection of stereotypes. The weird thing is I think I'm supposed to feel that I got promoted.

I don't.


Utter Randomness said...

I have a lot of difficulty using transit in my city, especially at rush hour, because I need a seat, and I need the driver to wait until I get to one before they drive. I almost always have to negotiate for the seat, if there's even anyone sitting there who doesn't have magic force fields of permissible apathy (aka headphones) in. The thing I hear most often is "people like you shouldn't travel at peak times." Which would be fine, except that peak times here are from 7-9am and 3-6pm. I work 9-5, or 8-4, but I cannot work earlier or later than that. It doesn't occur to those people that I have a job, they just think I'm stubborn.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly why they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions: your 'gentleman' needed his stereotypes washed. Or more like sandblasted.

People are afraid of talking to others who look like they have 'problems' for fear they might have to actually do something - or not be able to feel good about themselves. Easier to assume things a a certain way than to find out for sure.

No wonder some of us just stay home.


Tamara said...

I've been finding it more and more difficult to understand why so many people even want to make massive judgments about another person's life when they see such a small slice of it. What does that do for them?

Everyone has a story, and our stories can't always be understood by some who are really close to us, let alone someone who sees us in a lobby and never even converses with us.

wendy said...

Incredible. I just find myself shaking my head. Without ever even speaking to you he thought he knew all about you, including where you were going when your bus picks you up in the morning! Now, that's some kind of psychic abilities he figures he has.

Laura said...

The answer to why people judge is because that's part of the human condition to sort and classify things and other people. It's not okay but unless a person has reason to think differently it happens. Now perhaps that man will have " an attitude adjustment" That's a good thing. I too often get the "you work "thing. I never understand the shock and surprise because I don't wake up every morning and thing oh hell I still have CP. It is what it is. I guess people think that if you have disabilities some one out there pays for everything you want or need. Some of the people in my neighborhood have told me as much. I actually run to different business from my home because not driving made it impossible to find a traditional 9-5. My family my dad actually after watching and listening to my struggles about money and employment said "hon you have to make your own niche. It's the only way you'll find some peace because in this world there are so many who can't look past the minor issues." He was right!!! So I'm interested how do you folks with disabilities respond to "you work" or take bus or shop or whatever it is that you do as part of your daily life? When others think this is such a feat of superhuman strength and courage. I've never had a good answer. Cause when I have said "well what are my options I often get well if I was like you I'd never go out... ummm which doesn't leave me feeling any better then the first exchange.

Louna said...

I see the main point of the post as being different from what many other commenters assume. Of course, it is bad that this man thought he knew where Dave was going and assumed that he wouldn't be able to work. But to my mind it is even worse that he now has to "think about him differently", as if not being able to work would have somehow lessened his value.

clairesmum said...

well, i think maybe you 'promoted' HIM from clueless into the beginning of awareness......
if "doing damns the darkness", i hope that your DOING in the lobby helps to "dam-age" your neighbor's ignorance....

my background is health care and counseling, and i'm a misplaced creative writer...so i can make up a phrase or two that 'reframes' just about anything into something else....

Connie said...

Didn't you get promoted to someone he's now interested in talking to instead of just nodding a greeting?

Rickismom said...

But Connie, even if THAT was the promotion, it still means that Dave was viewed as being less important because he (in the man's imagination) didn't work.

Kristine said...

I often have to catch myself in such thinking about the "promotion." When someone treats me badly, condescendingly, or just makes an assumption, my reflexive train of tonight is often, "How dare they treat me that way! I'm an educated, hard-working, professional woman...." And then I stop and remember that none of those qualities determine how somebody should treat me. "How dare they treat me that way" because I'm a fellow human being, period. I deserve respect regardless of my educational and professional status, and no more or less than anybody else. I don't need to wave around my credentials like they give me value. It's a hard habit to break, though, when that's what society values.

B. said...

I'm basically just glad that the things I've heard so many times are being presented to the world by you, Dave. That's why I say thank you so many times. It's nice to know I'm not alone. I often kind of chuckle as well because there are just so many of the "normal people" misconceptions and surreal bits of dialogue. Besides the "You work?!" I also get "You live alone?!!", "You did ...(fill in the blank)?!! etc. It helps to have a strong sense of humour.

Laura, I have been about my daily life and actually forgotten that I have a disability and been rudely reminded by a normal person's ignorant remark and actually thought 'What are they talking about? Oh, yeah, I have...' But thankfully the people who get to know us well eventually see the whole person and sometimes lose sight of the 'disability' completely.

Deb said...

"Worth less". Isn't that what being disabled means to many people? In my experience where this matters most (and should matter least) is in the physician's office. While it ought not to matter it certainly does. I've have several physicians come out and ask me if I'm not just "trying to get on welfare"?

This while I was working full-time,
running my own business, as well as taking care of my family.

Now I make sure to take a copy of my latest book, as a gift, when I go to a new doctor. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but it's aggravating that people assume that because you're disabled you have *nothing* of value to contribute to society.

Looking at a disabled person and assuming they are incapable of contributing is no different than looking at a Black person and assuming they will be a criminal, or looking at a First Nations person and assuming they will be an alcoholic.

Be well, blessings on you and Joe. Get your flu jab if you haven't. We got ours today.

Moose said...

One of the reasons that I "gave up", as it were, and applied to get federal disability payments (SSDI, in the US) is that I lost two jobs in a row due to being disabled, and the economy had tanked.

With the first job, I couldn't get a bus seat home. I would sit for hours (usually a minimum of two) before a bus would come by where the driver would not say, "Sorry, we're too full for you." I was constantly exhausted from getting home late and not getting enough sleep, and if I overslept it was docked against me (nobody else had to work a set schedule, just me, but they refused to see this as a problem). My second job was worse; when winter came I had issues like the snow-shoveling company dumping snow into the handicapped spaces and me slipping and falling in the parking lot repeatedly. My boss told me, "You're more disabled than you lead me to believe", trumped up some issues, and had me fired.

I never thought I would work again. When I got the last job it was during a stretch of interviews where the interviewers were forced to face the lack of accommodations at their workspace, and you could see the reluctance to even continue the interview.

This month has been a mix of joy and hell: I got an actual, legitimate, work-from-home, online job. It's part time but it's an income. And my health-care provider told me, without any examination of my physical state other than watching me struggle to walk, that I am not really disabled, I am just fat and lazy, and that she would not fill out the form for me to to renew my handicapped parking placard.

Assumptions: They're everywhere.

Laura said...

B me too! Once I got accosted by someone in my complex who demanded and do mean demanded to know how the little girl I sit for during the day got to my house. She wanted to call someone I let them know I was alone with a child! That was one of the weirdest things I have ever had happen and just like you I was all what the heck"?? And then it hit me. Oh right I have CP. I actually had a hard time convincing her that I knew what I was doing and that the little girls dad knew I had his daughter. I don't know what the heck she thought. I just took someone's child. I was horrible. On the other hand I felt kind of sorry for her level of cluelessness. Every day after that she waved when she saw us out side until she moved. As my aunt has always said "disability brings out the stupid in some people" LOL