Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Something happened to me today that's never happened to me before. I'm nearly 64 so that takes some doing. It was a simple thing really, but it took me aback.

We were in the line up at the grocery store, we both nodded to the woman working there as she is often assigned the accessible till. She is an older woman who speaks English well, though her accent, combined with the noise of the store, and I add reluctantly, my age means that I sometimes have to listen very carefully to hear what she is saying.

As she checked out our stuff I noticed that she had a locked display case holding for scratch and win lottery tickets. I am a sucker for an impulse buy so I asked her if I could have all four of the remaining tickets. She had to get a manager to come with a key, which she did, and the tickets were out and being scanned.

When we were done and the groceries were paid for, she picked up the tickets that I had asked for and ... Well let's start with what she didn't do. She didn't do what everyone else has ever done when I've been a victim of my impulses in the past, she didn't just hand them to Joe. Now, I never really noticed, we are together, he's closer to the cashier and handing them to him seemed natural. But, she didn't do that.

What did she do differently?

She looked at me and said, "Is it OK for me to give these to him?"

She enunciated very carefully every word, she wanted my permission to give lottery tickets to the person I was with.

I thanked her for asking and said that it was fine to give them to him. She smiled, said, "I thought it would be," and handed them to Joe.

She thought it would be acceptable to give them to Joe but even with that assumption she asked my permission first.

You might think that a small thing, maybe even to small to write about, but gosh it was big to me. I liked it. I liked being asked permission. I liked being put in the position of deciding what happened next.

So often I don't notice when assumptions are made and Joe is automatically deemed the responder, the receiver, the prime mover. And this was one of those times.

Not again though.

Not again.


Diana said...

Funny thing. I learned this exact thing from you many years ago. A seminar in Kingston when you talked about choices. How one smile choice no matter how the person got it out to make a nod, a gesture, a blink. Was a choice. I remember you saying..... from the persons perspective not that ugly purple shirt again! The smallest choice can make a persons day.
That is how I work each day. The world won't end over a purple shirt but it may make for a better day for everyone.
I'm glad you were given the opportunity to see the insight you have shared with others!! 💖💖

Unknown said...

You write so well, Dave. I can 'see' this in my mind's gives me the impression that this woman is, like you, very observant of humans and their interactions and of the power/control/autonomy currents in all of us.
And I hope those turned out to be lucky lottery tickets!

Jesse the K said...

I hope we all meet more people like that. Thank you for sharing some good news.

ABEhrhardt said...

What would have been even better: You are having the conversation with her. You buy the tickets. She hands you the tickets, but right before you take them, you say, "Would you please give them to my husband?" She smiles, says, "Sure," and gives them to Joe.

The difference: this is the way she would have treated any able person she was having the conversation with.

The other is a tiny mark of difference.

Until everyone treats every other person as completely able, we're not there quite yet.

It shouldn't be remarkable, and it is only because of what you're used to. Which is the point you always make.

szera said...

I really appreciate all that you share and consistently feel enriched with more choices and cognizance of how to be/do the same for others.
Thank you!

Emily and Laura said...

I really appreciate your writing now, Dave, because I've reached the point where I'm in discussions with my doctor about getting a wheelchair for longer walks (basically anything over 100 yards). I've spent so much time and effort trying to avoid it, but now it feels like it will be liberating. I've almost become a shut-in -- by choice -- because it hurts too much to go anywhere. I want to start living again!

But because of your writing, I'm also very aware of the issues faced regularly (or perhaps I should say constantly) by someone in a wheelchair. And I think that I feel more empowered to deal with them because of your being so good about sharing the good and bad moments with us. Even though I live in the US, where the ADA theoretically mandates that everywhere public should be accessible, thanks to your blog I've been looking at places we go, and seeing how many of them aren't really as accessible as they should be -- bathrooms where wheelchairs can't turn around, doors to heavy to push open, insufficient room in restaurants. If I'm going to use a wheelchair, I'm going to be a noisy wheelchair user who expects equal access and equal treatment! And thanks to you, I have a good idea where to start.

Thank you so much for being you and showing what it's really like, inside and out, to deal with disability on a daily basis!

Ettina said...

That drove me nuts when I was regularly hanging out with my friend with CP. People would hand me her change and/or purchases all the time. I got into the habit of stepping out of reach when she was buying things.