You talkin’ to me?

I went to an interview type thing today.  This involved wearing something that isn’t a sweatshirt and getting on the bus.

Now, regular readers will know that I am newish to this city.  And not the best with directions.  I travel with people so I don’t get lost.  I choose not to get lost.  I choose to have a PA, or Sarge, with me when I don’t know where I’m going, or even when I do.

I do go places on my own.  These days, such places must be seen from my flat windows.  If I can see it, I know how to get back.  I am not confined to my house, or my chair.  Nor am I afraid of the world.  Quite the opposite.

It’s just that more often than not, the world is physically inaccessible to someone on wheels.  And therefore, I choose to have someone help me with steps and traffic and buses that don’t stop, even when I have hit the stop siren.  Because I want to get off the bus.  Maybe I have an interview to go to, or the rest of my life to get on with.

I should say at this point that as well as a people-watcher, I am an eavesdropper.  And sometimes I hear strangers talking about me.  If people feel the need to voice their opinions and pass judgement on me, the least I can do is remember it to record later.  Perhaps on a blog.

This is what I heard on the bus today:

Lady (term used loosely) 1:  Is she on her own?

Lady 2:  No, of course not.  How could she be?  That other one is in charge of her.

Excuse me?  The only one in charge of me is me.  Just because I choose to have someone with me does not mean I am not in charge of myself.  It isn’t my fault that the world is inaccessible to my wheels.  The wheels I need to live my life.  The life that I am in charge of.

I wanted to wave my CV in these ladies’ faces.  Because I happened to have it with me.

Hey girls, see these Universities?  These offices?  That’s where I’ve been.  All by myself.  Uphill both ways, to use your lingo.

But I didn’t.  I learned from a young age to pick my battles.  Because I’ve had more of them to pick from.

I used to tell people I fell off the back of a motorcycle.  The people who would look at me walk and then ask my parents what was wrong with me.

Nothing, they’d say.

And then I would tell them I fell of the back of a bike.  It’s not that I’m ashamed of the CP, but when I was younger I liked to watch people’s faces as they tried to picture a kid on a motorcycle.

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

When I was about 7, I was walking up the incline in a movie theatre, in front of these whispering old ladies (not unlike the ones on the bus today); who must have thought it was interesting to see this not-too-short person walking with crutches.  And I fell.  On purpose.  It was perfect, as if in slow motion.  I fell backwards and made it look like I hit my head, which I didn’t.  All of a sudden these three faces were staring down at me, and I smiled.  I got myself up and went out with my Dad, who till then wasn’t sure what I was doing.  Behind me I heard:  See Barb, I told you she was going to fall!

I turned and said:  And I heard you, too.

I said no such thing today, just got off the bus and on with my life.  Laughed about it, even.

I’m even allowed to write about it.  Because I said so.  And I’m in charge.

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22 thoughts on “You talkin’ to me?

  1. Wonder of how many of those comments are made because we just don’t know what to say. What’s appropriate, after all? I think not “I’m so sorry you have to use a wheelchair”. We can be insensitive, or clumsy or just stupid. Sometimes we need your pluck to make us think. Sad, I know. But three cheers for you for letting us know when we’re being inconsiderate, and more cheers for getting out there and just doing it!

  2. I’m also in a wheelchair (multiple sclerosis). Some people don’t know how to react, a few are blatantly rude, but many people can be very kind if you let them help you. After all, when you do something for someone else, you reconnect to your own humanity. The Jews call that a mitzvah. So, when you smile and accept help from someone, you’re really helping that person mature into a wise and caring human being, a mensch, whether you’re a Jew, or a Christian, as I am, or not sure exactly what you believe. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    1. I’ve never had an issue with asking for help when I need it. It is a fact of my life, like everyone else. I ask my family and friends, and the people I employ as my assistants. They help in the same spirit I use to ask them. Usually, with humour, or ‘that’s life’, or both.

      I’ve also never had a problem with people wanting to feel better about themselves. My issue comes in when they use me to do it. There is a difference between asking for help and being someone’s mission.

      I am nobody’s mission.

      I appreciate your comment.

      Lorna

      1. Lorna,

        I agree – I’m no one’s mission, either. It’s that I had a hard time asking for help, like at the supermarket, reaching something that was too high. Finally, I figured out that most people like to have the opportunity to help someone else. So, it’s good for both of us. A good sense of humor is a big help. Marcia

  3. Douglas Adams wrote in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that humans used their mouths so much because doing so eliminated the ability to use their brains.

    I can’t remember the exact way he phrased it, but it’s a quote I think about a lot when I’m out in public. Reading your post reminds me why.

  4. don’t you love to sort of be a fly on the wall sometimes…the things people say and do when they think you are watching or cant hear them,are interesting

  5. Why do I keep forgetting to log in when I’m trying to post a comment? Meh.

    Great post! I’ve heard from a few people how hard it is to get around on wheels, and you’ve just confirmed that for me. People seem to think that if you can’t walk, you can’t hear them either.

  6. Hey, I found you via the NaNo forums, and just wanted to say that this is an amazing post! 🙂

    I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about things like accessibility, because for the first time ever, there’s someone in my social circle who uses a wheelchair. Definitely an eye-opener. I think people just sort of trip over thinking about how others can have an independence that’s different from their own. If that makes any sense outside of my brain.

    1. Exactly. It does make sense! Thank you for understang what I was trying to say.

      And it’s nice to hear from anther NaNo person!

      Good luck next month and I’m glad to have you reading me!

  7. My my…you are a far braver woman than I. I always think of things that I want to say to random people on the streets but then lose the nerve. Good for you! Picking your battles is very mature of you though…I can’t pick my battles, so I get angry about everything and don’t end up doing anything about any of it. I suck. It’s official. 😉

    1. I don’t comment back to every moron on the street, just a select few. And I didnt yesterday. Just thought about what I would liked to have said. And wrote it here.

      I have to say that you are one of my favourite people to read around here. 🙂

  8. Your perspective about asking for help versus being someone’s mission is very healthy. I like it.

    My father had an obvious physical limitation that was not hearing-related yet was always subject to similar comments. He handled it with the same grace. We humans are curious creatures.

    You’re able to write about it beautifully. Trite but oh-so-true: Yay, you!

  9. I must be completely oblivious, I had no idea you were in a wheelchair or that you had CP. Don’t feel singled out by little old ladies though…some of them are just mean. I have no health problems what so ever, went to a beginner exercise class, and had three of them ask if I was disabled because I was new and didn’t know all the moves, so was kind of uncoordinated. >_>

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