Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mani Petty

Yesterday Mike, Joe and I split up, all off to different duties. Marissa and the girls were off getting something called a mani-pedi or some such thing. Joe had gone home to make a quick lunch, Mike was heading back to be with the girls when they finished, and I went to do some banking as Joe and I needed some cash. As always, my wheelchair made being an equal participant a given.

I entered the bank and saw the long row of bank machines with only one being used. The accessible machine, of which there is only one, was right next to the two young men using the other machine. I thought nothing of it. I prefer this machine, though I can use other machines, because it's accessible and as a result is MUCH easier for me to use than any of the others. As I was alone, I didn't want anything to happen for which I might need help.

When I pulled into place at the bank machine, I first heard the chat between the two young men stop and then felt their activity cease. These bank machines are in a long row, all tucked up to each other. Between each of them was a small barrier. I began to tense up. Questions about safety came to mind. Why where they no longer talking, no longer doing their banking.

One of the men spoke, breaking the silence, "Why, when all the other machines were free, did you come right over by us?" Then the other spoke, "Yeah, what's up with that?" I felt their hostility flow over me, and, to be frank, didn't understand it. I backed up and turned towards them, "Why are you even talking to me? I'm just doing my banking."

The guy who spoke first said, "There were all those," indicating the long row of machines, "and you came to this one beside us. What's with that?"

I said, "Really?? You are really asking me that?"

Now they are both standing in front of me now. In answer I just pointed to the wheelchair symbol. "See that?" Then I pointed to my wheelchair, "See this? I don't know how far you got in school but I'm sure you passed matching one thing to another."

They were quiet so I continued, "So, I answered your question, let me ask you one. Why did you choose to come and stand right by the disabled access one when you had a lot of other choices, are you looking for easy victims or something?"

Now, I don't care that they stood where they stood, but they had questioned my motive and I was then in the mood to do the same. Turn about, fair play. They stumbled an apology.

I didn't feel very good about this interaction. I didn't like the feeling of vulnerability that came with being alone, in the vestibule with the bank machines and facing two young inexplicably angry men. I didn't like the sudden need I felt to get back at them.

No bell rung but I won that bout.

But, I didn't feel even slightly like a winner.


Anonymous said...

Ah . . . caught in the "why" question trap!!!! I don't ask/answer any "why" questions - and it has saved me a lot of grief. When asked a "why" question, my answer is (verbally or non-verbally) as follows: "You are mistaking me for someone who is accountable to you." I would invite you to try it on sometime (but not with someone with whom you are actually accountable)! :-)

Jeannette said...

I think that you didn't feel like a winner because that battle was one that should not have been necessary. BUT -- and this is based on past experience, experience that we've all had, and that you've mentioned here in the blog -- had you somehow just let it slide, and not spoken back at them, had you reacted with some kind of apology or deference or silence, you would have felt as if you had lost something important. Correction: you would have felt as if you had abandoned something important -- yourself.

theknapper said...

They needed to see the world beyond themselves...I can see how this innnocent interaction could have turned dangerous because of their fears and misinterpretations.....hope they got it and it stays in their minds before they react again.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping you educated them - and that, as usual with young humans, they couldn't react quickly enough to do more than stammer out an apology. Of course, this is crediting them with basically good intentions in life. It is a good place to start, but only IF you can feel physically safe doing so - which you may not always feel.

If they learned something, if they were ashamed of their behavior - instinctive as it was - it might take them time to acquire a new behavior, and learn how to speak.

But you gave them a wonderful example, they started it not you, and I think you won - because you said something.

You may not be feeling good because most of us don't like to have to educate/upbraid other adults, but, short of getting a bank guard, I can't see what else you could have done.

Except not say anything, which would also leave you not feeling good.

Your instincts are honed by this kind of interactions happening to you all the time; I'd trust them most of the time.


PS You're educating ME.

wheeliecrone said...

Cut yourself some slack, Dave!
If all of your actions and reactions were perfectly loving and appropriate, you would be ready for your wings and halo - and we would all miss you! A lot!

Anonymous said...

The young men may have been suspicious. Your comments most likely made them angry. Once you answered their question - perhaps you should have left it there. You were, at that point, on equal ground. You won nothing by going on - except to prove you can be as cruel as them.

Anonymous said...

Are you identifying yourself as petty? Do you really think you were?

If you were, I'm sure you'll learn from the occasion, because that's what you do. Not pleasant to see in oneself, but in the circumstances, entirely forgivable.

Or perhaps you weren't petty at all, just asserting yourself as non-victim, and identifying the dynamics out loud, with a little bit of mixed motive. You're allowed those: no-one'd do much of anything if motives always had to be perfectly pure.

Unknown said...

They were simply idiots, no one feels like a winner when they have to point out something like that to people who should know otherwise. It feels like a waste of oxygen :(.
Glad you gave it back to them.