Monday, April 28, 2014

The Other Side of The Bottle

There is a man who lives in my apartment building who, in two ways, frightens me. Most of the time when I see him he is overtly hostile to me, sometimes making rude comments about either my disability or my weight. I brace myself when ever I see him get off the elevator, or when he's waiting in the lobby as I get off the elevator. Mostly he just glares at me are points at me and rolls his eyes. I've been the brunt of this kind of thing all my life, in one form or another, and have learned some coping skills to deal with his toxicity. He's mean. I get that.

Oddly, with what I'm about to say, this is how I prefer him. I prefer the predictable hateful guy, who makes predictably cruel remarks or engages in a kind of tiresome, routine, boringly repetitive nastiness that can be predicted on sight. I prefer him this way. Even though deep inside I find the sight of him disturbing and somewhat frightening. I can deal with this level of fear.

I had heard, from someone who wanted me to understand that his behaviour is because he's had it tough, that he was an alcoholic who had been sober for several years. There was more to the story but I need not tell it here. I get that people have had it bad, I don't get the idea that this gives permission to be randomly mean to other people.

Well, his sobriety ended a few weeks ago.

Now he's less predictable. When he gets off the elevator, and he's been drinking, he lumbers over to me, leans in and in a very patronizing way attempts to be friendly to me. He gets so close that the alcohol in his breath burns off the hair in my nose. "How ya doing, buddy?" is his most common greeting. I back away from him, he doesn't notice, nor does he notice that I don't answer, he expects the same kind of response to his friendliness from me as he would one of the pets who lives in the building. A look, a back away, and that's it.

This guy frightens me even more. His friendliness, I figure, can turn into hostility in a second. The lurching unpredictability of his mood and his manner has me fearing for my safety in a new and different way.

As he's done nothing that's actually reportable, or considered particularly notable by the powers that be, it's up to me to come up with strategies to deal with our random meetings. And that's what I'm doing. I'm developing ways to be safe in potentially dangerous circumstances. I'm actually pretty good at this, I'm feeling confident.

Creating safety in unsafe situations is something that people with differences need to be good at. It's a skill. It can be learned and it can be taught. And it should be, because, gosh, it's a skill I use over and over and over again.


Ron Arnold said...

The devil you know has become the devil you don't know . . . yes, that's a rather unsettling thing.

I play in a rock band on the weekends. Our chosen audience is folks that are drinking. The key to success in the band is to help 'em have a good time - and sometimes that means talking to 'em. Not always an easy proposition considering they are in the process of shutting down their cortex one drink at a time. I don't always care for it. Inebriated folks are not reasonable - they're a walking reactive limbic system . . . yay.

In your particular situation - I'd care for it even less. My advice is - be very mindful around him. (Given he's had a relapse after a period of sobriety, he may be drinking more than he'd done in the past.) Polite self-extrication is probably the wisest course when he's trying to interact with you - given his less than friendly demeanor in the past.

Honestly, I hope he sobers up to his usual grouchy-assed self soon.

Anonymous said...

This sounds very unsafe: you have to depend on his inhibitions against actual physical attack of any kind - while he is in the steady process of drowning those same inhibitions.

I really don't see how you can defend yourself consistently against someone like this - this is very disturbing to hear. The best way would be to always have Joe with you, which is very confining to you AND Joe.

Being on the phone with someone the instant you see him is a poor second option - because it also ties up one of your hands.

Please tell us when you've figured out a way to be safe - all the time - this doesn't sound good.


Anonymous said...

I don't get the idea that anything gives permission to be randomly mean to other people, too.

re the comment 'I really don't see how you can defend yourself consistently against someone like this - this is very disturbing to hear.' Absolutely. This is the reality we must embrace, how to navigate places spaces situations where we cannot consistently defend outselves. As disabled people, as women, as people of colour, as queer. And as parents we have to understand and support our kids to make their way in the world. I think there isn't the possibility of figuring out a way to be safe all the time. We have to figure out how to feel ok with the possibility of not always feeling, being safe.

Anonymous said...

I need this skill. I'm crippled,vulnerable and really fed up of not being able to protect myself. How do I learn it?

Anonymous said...

That sucks.

P.S. I'd love to read more about how to create safety in unsafe situations.

Glee said...

If he tries anything and you are in your power chair just knock him off his feet and rack off quick and ring the police. If he is drunk he may just stay down for awhile. It's just terrible Dave :(

wendy said...

Scary people only become scarier when alcohol is added. I'm sorry you're dealing with this.

Rickismom said...

Ricki, because she had some experience with alcoholics, could spot when one was drunk , and she would NOT be happy.

Anonymous said...

You have more verbal intervention skills than anyone I can think of. If he tries to hurt you, spray him with your new can of wasp spray :D Be Well