Sunday, May 28, 2017

(Not Quite) One of Our Own

How odd.

We went into a coffee shop yesterday. I say that but Joe and I had tea and Sadie a hot chocolate so no coffee graced our table. When we went in we saw it was really full of people. I spotted one table free and headed for it. I couldn't see, because of a post, that it was beside, but not part of, another table. When the other table came into view it was occupied by a young woman and a much older man, with a disability, who, like me, was using a scooter. He, also like me, was pulled up to the side of the table. Once our table was claimed Joe and Sadie went off in search of drinks, tea biscuits and the like.

After just a second a harsh glare from the other man with a disability came my way. I suddenly felt that I was intruding, but I was at another table, not connected to his table, and the place was full. He said something to the young woman with him and they simply left. I got the impression that he didn't want to be at a table with another person with a disability sitting so closely by. It would have been easy to mistake that we were a group. I don't think, and again, I'm guessing, that they'd have left if I had been non-disabled.

I run into this sometimes. The prejudice within the disabled community to others with disabilities. The desire to only be surrounded by non-disabled people, as if their value will rub off on you. I felt guilty but only for a second. Why should I care any more about a disabled bigot than a non disabled one? Now, I don't know for certain what was going on. But the dirty look he gave me was unmistakable. They were in a coffee shop packed with people, it's not a place where couples seek private time together. And, it seemed more like a helper / helpee relationship.

I get into this bubble of all of you here on this blog and all of those I'm connected with on other social media sites. I forget that pride and community are universal responses to what it is to be disabled and different.

I forget that people still live and grow up in a world that teaches:

self hatred
self loathing
self disgust

I forget that I live in a world that expresses it's reaction to disability with:

hatred
loathing
disgust

I forget that I live in a world where:

pride is a process
community is something that takes work
belonging is yet a dream

But I also live in a world where Sadie does drawings of different kinds of wheelchairs and explains to me how they work and how they would make my transit better.

And I live in a world where Joe has the courage to walk beside me and be a witness to and a recipient of stares and strange comments.

And I live in a world where I can work, and travel, and write and speak and do what I love to do at work and at home.

Further ... I have all of you.

So, he may have thought he left me alone.

But he didn't.

Not by a long shot.

5 comments:

Janonwheels said...

I have had such stares and rudeness all my life, as I am sure most of us have. When I was younger it upset me greatly, now as I get older, I just try to ignore it, or don't acknowledge it. Saying to myself "its their problem not mine.' I do not often get into a confrontation as you wrote about in yesterdays post. Well done .......and, yes, you have all of us!

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Group dynamics are tough. We're used to like grouping with like from the beginning: in family or friends gatherings, it is assumed that the kids will play with the kids, and the grownups will talk to each other.

If there are two disabled people in a group, should they gravitate and talk to each other? Should caretakers talk to each other? How should one group behave toward another in a public place?

Last Sunday one of the student members of the choir I sing in had a brace on her leg which she would have to wear for a while because she had fallen off her bike and damaged her leg. She got all kinds of offers of help. I have far more mobility problems - I don't get offers. I know I can ask for help, and sometimes someone volunteers, and this is fine with me - I like to be able to take care of myself in public, but it was interesting to see - and interesting to watch my own reactions. "Hey! I'm the disabled person here!"

I think I still envy the rest of people their ability to move how and where they please.

SammE said...

I'm a talker, Dave. I talk to the sales clerks, and anyone who serves me in a restaurant, or store. I wish the garbage guy a good day and thank him, tell him to stay cool, or warm, and tease the postal person about bringing me "good mail". I admire and ask after all the babies we meet, and the dogs of the walkers in our neighbourhood too. There's a middle-aged man named Dave, who has some sort of intellectual limitation, and wears hearing aids, who is walking to catch his bus while I'm out with the dogs. We've become friends who talk as we walk, even if sometimes I can't understand all he's saying. If we had ended up sitting close by as you did at the table, I'd have been talking to you, no matter what your disability, appearance or ability. I'd have hoped you would speak with me too while you waited! That man was just rude, disabled or not. I'm here, even if I don't post often, and I often wish I could just bump into you somewhere someday so I could say hello. samm

Rickismom said...

Back here reading after a LONG gap!

obviously he felt threatened (probably afraid to be "lumped together" with you, due to the shared disability, but obviously not wanting to "share" some other characteristic that you have, whether being gay, overweight, Canadian, or whatever.)
A lot of us may find ourselves unwilling to be lumped together with others who "share" some identifiable characteristic with us, but not a characteristic which we dislike. [I honestly would cringe if on a plane surrounded by Chinese, the only other Caucasion would be speaking loudly**.....afraid to be lumped together with the loadmouth, in other's minds, by default, by skin color.)

[** Note: i would be afraid of being suspected of having a bad character trait, a valid concern. Unfortunately I suspect that he was afraid of having a trait NOT due to character (like weight??, being gay??)... and therein lies his mistake and wrong-doing,

The true problem is the person's lack of self-belief to think "the hell with what other idiots here might think of me", and to feel compassion for others who may not be like them.

The true culprit, of course, is the fact that society often will have an anti- XXwhateverXX bias, and this man is a victim of that. That does NOT condone his behavior, however, and he definately does have a problem.

Cait Hawthorne said...

As a contrary thought, he could be experiencing a kind of "impostor syndrome", via internalized ableism. I find myself feeling that way at times, when I meet others with wheelchairs. They're often unable to walk or stand at all, and I feel somehow false because I can. It's something I'm working on, but maybe he's not ready yet.