Wednesday, November 04, 2015

AWFULLY big book

Photo Description: book cover for 'The Alexandria Quartet' by Lawrence Durrell with and introduction by Jan Morris
"That's an AWFULLY big book!" she said to me smiling. Her tone suggested that I'd picked up something I shouldn't have and needed to put it back. The book, The Alexandria Quartet, is big, that I grant you and it's 900 pages is daunting, but it's next on my list of books to read. The bookstore had only a couple of copies and I'd been reading the back of the book when she spoke to me. How she thought that the book ended in my hand by accident, I have no idea.

I said to her, patiently, "Yes it is an awfully big book, but every now and then, I find, it's good to settle in for a nice long read."

She looked at me startled, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were ... " Then she was lost for words. Or, perhaps more accurately, she didn't want to use the word that finished that sentence.

After a moment's pause, she said, "I shouldn't have spoken to you in that tone of voice," and then she caught herself again by continuing, "it's just that I thought ..." Stuck again. Another unfinished sentence.

"You thought I had an intellectual disability, although you may have used another word in your head, but I don't. But I can tell you this, no-one likes being spoken to in that tone of voice. Not me, not people with intellectual disabilities, not children .. no one."

I'd have been fine if she left it at that and headed off, but she didn't.

She said, "But ..."

And that's as far as I let her go, because there is no 'but' here. It doesn't matter what she thought. It doesn't matter what she intended. The only things that mattered is that she felt that disability gave her permission to speak to me in a tone of voice that NO ONE likes or appreciates. NO ONE. The idea that there is a tone of voice that is reserved for people with intellectual disabilities is patently ridiculous. Patronizing is patronizing. Offensive is offensive.

"There is no 'but,'" I said, "you made two assumptions, one about me and one about how you are allowed to speak to the person you thought I was. Both are wrong. Just apologize and let's move on shall we."

"You don't have to be mean," she said.

"I'm not mean, I'm not bitter, I'm just interrupted and insulted - typically people apologize for that, if you are above apologizing to someone with a disability, then please, just leave me alone and go about your business."

"I'm not above apologizing to anyone, but I won't apologize to YOU!"

"I'm good with that, I wonder if you will still be this evening at around five."

She hadn't left, so I did.

I went an bought my AWFULLY big book.


Liz said...

Gah. I mean, just...gah. I'm sorry, Dave, that this is your experience, so often. That it is often the experience of many.

Colleen said...

What Liz said - gah. Where do these people get the nerve to speak to anyone like that?

shirley said...

Dave I would like to share this with you, I work for a ARC in Pennsylvania who serve people with ID, yesterday one of our staff who provide companion service to a wonderful man came to work very upset this is what he reported; They went to a local Arbys to have dinner, they were placing their order and using a coupon, the lady waiting on them messed up their order and after correcting it asked for the individuals name to put on receipt since they were very busy they would call his name when food was ready, he stated his name 'George" they waited for their food at the counter so no name had to be called, after seated to eat their meal, Tom who is the staff checked receipt and then saw the name the girl had written on the receipt, it was FOREST. He went to the counter and asked could this be referring to Forest Gump, and asked to see manager, nothing was done. On behalf of George I will be contacting Arbys cooperate, and the local franchise owner. I also plan to visit Arbys to introduce myself to this young lady and have a few words with her and her manager, it is actions such as this that break your heart. George is one of the most caring and kind individual you could meet and anyone who knows him would agree, his staff was very upset and George who understood everything that went on was also hurt by this ignorant persons actions
Shirley from PA.

Princeton Posse said...

I am not clear as to who this woman was? Was she a store clerk or just a customer?

B. said...

I say 'Gah' as well. Why do they feel the need to say anything?! Sad creatures.

clairesmum said...

She's tone deaf to emotions, apparently. Ugh.

Anonymous said...


I dont know how you can remain so calm in this situations. I am not sure that I would not have slammed that "awfully big book" on her feet - just by accident ;-)