Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I Said No Thank You

Holding Hands
Picture from 2011

So many, many millions of times I wished as I hobbled or rolled towards a door with my balance wavering and hands full that someone, anyone would notice and hold the gosh darn door. It happened a lot more after I had kids. I started trying to move objects with a palpable frustration as focused as the force. Now and then I got lucky and someone would help me out. To be clear, doesn't everyone (able bodied included) wish all doors were automatic and equipped with sensors from time to time?

I enjoy the occasional polite, observant stranger who doesn't slam the door in my face or picks up the pen I dropped with a smile. I do the same whenever I can. In fact it's quite entertaining to watch folks take in the disabled lady holding the door for them. What I do not like are the pushy, oblivious and condescending. "Do not like" is putting it far to mildly, but in the interest of not scaring new readers away I'll leave it at that for a moment.

Pushy? You may be asking yourself what on earth I could possibly mean. When little Roo was a few months old I was walking to the car with her in a baby carrier on my chest. I had the baby, my purse and crutches. I had a moment, you know the have-to-stop-right-this-second-and-readjust-moment. I slowed down, put one arm around the baby, knelt down on the sidewalk and pulled my purse back up on my shoulder with the other hand. I had no awareness of anyone else until a man approached and said something about helping. When I turned my face to him and began to get back to standing he simply took the baby from me and carried her to my waiting car. Um, WHAT?!? WHO DOES THAT?

I've had people snatch things from my hands (not good for the balance), lay hands on me to pray without my consent and simply walk up behind me in my wheelchair and push me somewhere! Would you just throw your friend over your shoulder fireman style and carry them somewhere? Sigh. The difference between polite and pushy is extremely simple: Use your words.

If you speak to me respectfully as an adult without condescension or pity I will respond politely. "Can I give you a hand with that?" works great. Next step, wait for me to respond and respect my wishes. No thank you means no thank you. I'm not a child who can't fend for myself lost out in the world waiting for you to save me. I am an adult with some physical limitations. I did not come to the grocery store to inspire you. I didn't ask if I was "doing great" or a "real trooper" I just need milk.

This morning was rainy which doesn't bode well for my joints, but I was doing fine. I was ahead of the curve to be honest. I had my hair and make up done, a cute dress on, my cane had a brand new tip on it, Roo was looking adorable and we were all smiles. I decided to "run in" to Target on our way to a play date. I only brought one canvas bag. We lingered in the store longer than I intended, but I used the electric cart. We only needed the one bag and now I was caffeinated! The rain had even stopped for a moment so we were good to go. I decided to park the electric cart inside rather then bring it to the car so that if it did start raining again the next person wouldn't get a wet butt. Nice, aren't I.

I walked out the exit without the hassle of umbrellas (yeah plural, because my sidekick has to have her own) with my purse on my shoulder, my one light bag in one hand and cane in the other and Roo obediently keeping pace with her hand on my wrist. If you only knew how many times I'd been in this same parking lot with 15 heavy bags in the rain wishing teleportation was real. Not today, today I was on a roll. I mean you can go ahead and applaud me for going into Target with a five-year-old no less and coming out with uno bag!

All the sudden there was a woman behind me. I didn't hear her at all. She was completely ninja which was impressive for a heavyset middle aged lady wearing bright colors. When she invaded my personal space she asked "are you ok?" I was startled by her presence so I paused with my key in the door and stared a moment. I recovered from my surprise and said "Oh yeah, I'm fine." She stood there way to close to me unmoving I don't know if she even blinked. She may have been a Dr. Who villain now that I think about it. Anyway, I repeated "I'm fine" this time adding "we only have one bag today" with a smile as I opened the door and threw it in.

She proceeded to grab the door handle and "hold" the car door open. Seriously? It's okay those stay open by themselves, lady. She asked something along the lines of what should she do to help. Again (a little less politely this time) I assured her I was fine and then I attempted to hurry Roo into her seat so this lady would buzz off.

"Buckle up. They're waiting for us, sweetie" when the lady still stupidly holding my car door heard me say this she said in a completely relieved way "Oh, are you with someone?" Wow. Really?!? I told her we were just in a hurry to get somewhere. Then she laughed and said "Oh. I thought you were with somebody. I was gonna say why aren't they out here helping you!"

OH. MY. GOD. What exactly did this delusional woman think was happening here? I basically had to slam the door in her face to get her to go away. Can't relate? For two seconds just imagine it's a nice summer day and you're all ready to do some work on the lawn. As you set out to pushing the mower across the yard some stranger walks past and stops. They stare at you for a bit and then without a word grab the mower handle and when you resist them they kneel down and begin pulling weeds. As you stand there in shock they ask you if you're home alone. They grin all the time as you tell them you've got this under control. When they finally decide to bug off without warning throw themselves in front of the lawn mower and passionately pray for your messy lawn. A normal, non threatening stranger, but still all up in your personal space ignoring basically everything you say. That's messed up, right?!?

The most messed up part is that I'm sure she went home feeling pleased with herself. I'm sure she told her friends she went out of her way to help a poor gimp in the rainy Target parking lot that morning. Unbelievable.

17 comments:

  1. i go through the same thing every day....people dont understand i am not angry or have a chip on my shoulder....just annoyed thats all

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    1. Exactly. they don't stop to think about how they'd feel if roles were reversed.

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  2. I once had a man block my path in the feezer section at the grocery store insisting on "helping" me whether I liked it or not. After politely declining him twice, he persisted, so shouting began. I told him that after declining his unwanted help once, he needs to leave. I said that it's obvious at this point that his motives had nothing to do with helping me, and everything to do with feeling good about himself. I said it's patronizing and offensive to force unwanted "help" on others when I've already said, "don't help me." At this point, he was still blocking my way and I had my hand on the lever ready to drive the scooter right into him in the least subtle way possible. I was well aware that I would get away with it because I knew all of the managers and some of the security staff from having worked at that store before my mobility limitations forced me to quit. He looked down at his feet and weakly said, "I was just trying to help." In a big booming voice that could've been heard from across the store, I bellowed, "GO AWAY!" I think he simultaneously noticed my hands twitching on the lever. He jumped sideways then retreated from the aisle. When I got to the next aisle, I heard people whispering to their companions, "oh, that's what the yelling was about," as they noticed me in the scooter. No doubt that schmuck went home and tweeted about the ungrateful cripple he tried to help.

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    1. It is such a completely aggressive thing to ignore someone saying no and ridiculous to be villainized for standing up for yourself. I wish I had been a little my aggressive, but she was standing so close to me and my fight or flight said flight.

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    2. Everyone responds differently to this kind of stress. With my path being blocked and the reverse being slow on those scooters, fight was my only option, but I think maybe I came out of it feeling more confident than before as a result. Fleeing is entirely valid if that's what works for you. It's terrifying for people like us to be cornered like that and have no idea what they're really trying to do. We encounter so many assaultive situations in which most people would have been justified in using (possibly lethal) force to defend themselves because of reasonable fear of kidnapping or assault, but we're expected to assume that everyone is "just trying to help" even though we said, "no" and we're easier targets. It puts us in terrible danger of violence because we don't know when to defend ourselves and if we do, we risk being punished for it.

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  3. Someone took your BABY out of your hands?! Oh gosh. I use a wheelchair as well and get so frustrated when people use it as an armrest, grab it, push me, or otherwise try to help me in ways that actually hold me back. Glad you wrote this.

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    1. Right?!? Since posting this one other person said the same thing happened to her so apparently there's more than one person who thinks you can just take someone's baby as long as your "helping". Thanks.

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  4. I have discovered fairly recently that I have a particular kind of "incredulous" stare. When people say something really stupid to me about disability, or behave the way this "good Samaritan" did with you, my no thanks is accompanied by a look on my face that apparently says, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHAT IS HAPPENING?" On the plus side, it tends to cut people short before they can really screw up my routine. On the downside, I confess it makes me feel like a heel, even though I know it shouldn't. Your account makes me feel better!

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    1. I better work on my incredulous stare, it sounds like a winner. Don't feel like a heel, the aggressively "helpful" need as many lessons in manners as we can give them.

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  5. I can So relate to this post. As someone who is visually impaired, I often get people who may or may not have the best of intentions basically demand that I allow them to help me. On some occasions, this is not a bad thing - sometimes I try and take on too much myself - and sometimes I just want to pay for my greasy lunch and sit down and eat it in peace. My good friend Meagan wrote a blog post on this very subject not too long ago. I hope it adds to the discussion:
    https://wheresyourdog.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/but-i-meant-well/

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    1. I can totally imagine! I'll check at that post. Thanks!

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  6. Your story reminds me of a scenario I saw on What Would You Do. Have you ever seen it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gshh1nVE5Ms

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    1. Wow, I cried a little when the first guy stood up to that lady. Thanks for sharing the link.

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  7. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hear you!!!

    Someone once ;helped' by pushing my wheelchair withoout checking with me first (I was indoors, on a flat floor, waiting for the lift) and nearly broke my fingers. My new chair doesn't have handles.

    But people treat me like Im an idiot - and it pisses me off. Not had anyone pray for me, but I am a part time wheelchair user and had a lot of rather personal questions. Hey! I'm just trying to get to work here, leave me alone!!

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    1. I've been injured by an aggressive pusher too! Boundaries, communication and respect are so important.

      My favorite question is "What's wrong with you?" I always smile and say "Nothing, what wrong with you?'

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