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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Home Depot: A Missed Opportunity

I hate super stores. They are truly miserable places to shop. Customer service is non existent despite what the ads on television portray. When I go to stores such as Staples, Home Depot, Target etc. I have no expectations except cheap prices. However, I pay dearly for those lower prices. For me, I pay via ignorance, stunning stupidity, and often shockingly rude comments and questions. It is not just the customers that are the problem--employees are equally unaware. Yesterday, I was in the Home Depot and had a typically negative encounter. When I shop at the Home Depot I go during the week at an odd time. More often than not the store is devoid of customers and employees. Yesterday was typical. Aisle after aisle was empty and the store looked like a ghost town. All was well with the world until I encountered an employee I could not void. As I was passing her in a loud voice she stated "Hey, no speeding in the store. The speed limit is enforced". I stared at the woman with a face of stone. No comment was necessary. Oblivious, she cackled at her own joke clearly amused at my expense. What I did next bothers me--I did nothing. I kept on going and simply let my anger stew. In retrospect I should have stopped this employee and told her exactly how rude she was. I should have gone to customer service and complained. Her "joke" was not funny or remotely appropriate. I permitted myself to be the butt of this employee's joke. I felt less than human, reduced to an inanimate object told not to speed. I was not amused and have heard this so called joke about speeding more times than I care to remember. The joke tellers think they are hysterical. They are not funny at all. They are rude and thoughtless. This is a problem. How do I explain this so called joke is not funny? How do I tell them that I am deeply insulted and angry? How do I get them to acknowledge that I a human being?

I do not have any ready answers to the questions above. I wish I did. When I let such social violations pass without comment I feel like I missed an opportunity to educate and correct. Ignorance afterall can be cured by a little education. But why I wonder is such an educational effort left to me and other people with a disability. It is not our job to educate the masses about disability. Surely disability awareness is part of the secondary school curriculum or employee training. If this true, why does ignorance abound? Frankly, I am getting too old and way too cranky to tolerate ignorant comments. I try not to be confrontational but there are times I cannot or should not let comments go. Yesterday's speeding "joke" was one of those times I needed to stop and be confrontational. Aside from the ignorance of the question, the laughter at my expense hurt. Sadly, such comments are far from unusual. I have been subjected to rude comments from strangers for the last thirty years. These comments have not abated--they are uttered with stunning regularity. I have adapted by creating some pretty sharp if not devastating replies that shut people up fast. This makes me feel better but I am not sure how helpful this is. I suspect my cutting replies are quickly dismissed; I am perceived to be the "angry" disabled person that hates his lot in life, an antiquated stereotype. My other means of adapting is less than helpful--I have learned to avoid certain social situations. I never ever go to health food stores--an offer for a cure to paralysis via herbal remedy is common. I never go to church--someone will tell me if I pray hard enough I will be able to walk again. In the end, what I resent the most is being public property, having my humanity violated on a regular basis. I just do not understand why others, all other humans, don't get this.


Madame Croissant said...

You voice your anger calmly and well, and I suspect that any confrontation with that employee would have resulted in her feeling quite foolish, and a little bit more likely to make such insensitive comments in the future. I really like your blog, and I think I will check out your book!

william Peace said...

Lauren, Glad you like my blog. I sometimes question the future of humanity when I am done shopping at super stores. It seems ignorance abounds as does a lack of basic humanity. On bad days I wonder if people really can be educated. As for my book it is not yet in print. I am working on it still!

FridaWrites said...

I'm with you, every single word.

Education is important and yet I don't feel that I need to be everyone's educational project or unpaid teacher.

I do think even though someone gets upset by a cutting mark or rebuke, they are less likely to do the same thing again.

Diane J Standiford said...

I too have heard this "ha ha" many times---I worked in a 62 story bldg full of such jerks and lived in the most densely populated part of Seattle---how I respond now, at 53, depends on my mood. But I KNOW I HAVE educated a few unthinking joksters. "I wish I had a scooter like that!" (said to me by a stranger on a street corner) my reply, "Swell, I'll trade you for your legs." "Can I get a lift?" "Sure! Just carry me over to Starbucks and back." They get the drift.

Becs said...

The times have bred a false familiarity that results in scenes like the one you endured.

It's stunning (and not in the good way) when absolute strangers believe they have a right to your body or to tell you what to do to be "normal".

During her pregnancy, one of my co-workers found that people would just randomly come up to her and rub her tummy. (Like for good luck on a Buddha?)

Another co-worker was very overweight. People would come up to her in the supermarket and remove things from her cart, saying, "You don't need that! You're fat enough already!"

I must have a force field around me saying "Do not touch!" because I do not want hugs from acquaintances or friendly slaps on the back.

Whatever happened to "Keep your hands to yourself"?

I think the clerk was uncomfortable with herself and her way of relieving some of her own discomfort was to make a joke and a poor one at that.

william Peace said...

Frida, I agree it is not our job to educate the general public about disability. I would ad the proviso this statement pertains to adults. When kids ask questions, and 99% of the time they are good ones, I happily provide an answer.
Diane, Like you I am pretty good at replies that are pointed. How and why though do people think they have the right to make such stupid remarks. You sure live in a great city. Seattle is my favorite city in the USA.
Becs, Pregnant women, like people with a disability, are public property. I was stunned at how differently people treated my wife when she was pregnant. She got an inkling for what my life was like on a daily basis. And yes people that are overweight, obese, face great stigma and rude comments. All this is wrong. Perhaps it is tied to false familiarity that is common today thanks in part to easy access to the on line world. People do not seem to have the same social filters they once had.

FridaWrites said...

Diane's comment reminded me that my daughter and I thought of making disability bingo cards for our family and every time one of us hears something stupid we all pull out our cards and see if our card has that particular comment on it--in a way that makes it clear to others we hear that particular statement a lot.

william Peace said...

Frida, I love the bingo idea. I wonder that is the most prevalent stupid comment people with a disability encounter. There sure are a lot of choices to select!

Peter said...

I will never forget the day a total stranger walked up to me on my lunch break and said. "Your lucky. My son was born without any fingers."

I was stunned for a second then I blurted out. "Are you usually this rude?"

She mumbled an apology and ran away. I was so shook up that I couldn't go back to work that day. I lost my job because of it.

The Untoward Lady said...

I think you're making a real assumption there when you assume that people have been exposed to disability education in school. Quite frankly, I went to school in California and I was never exposed to any of that until I reached adulthood. And that was only because I purposefully got out there and learned it on my own.

william Peace said...

Petelee, People can truly be clueless and rude. Like you I am often stunned by the words that come out of people's mouths.
Untoward Lady, You make a good point about schools. Most schools do little to nothing to educate kids about disability. I vividly recall when my son was in middle school he was being taught about the Civil Rights Movement. Not a word was said about disability rights. He raised the issue r.e. transportation and the teacher told him disability rights was very different from civil rights and was in reality a medical issue. UGH! He was very upset by this statement. To me this highlights the inability of schools to teach kids anything about civli rights or people who are in some way different. He was never exposed to rights for gays or transgender and homophobia was rampant. I like your blog very much though I have not posted a comment.

Unknown said...

Hi william, I found your blog recently and I love your writing style. You're so right in this post that it's never the responsibility of marginalized people to educate their oppressors. As an able-bodied person I consider myself an ally and I try to educate myself and others as much as I can about ablism. Thank you for writing your blog so I can hear from your perspective =)

william Peace said...

Iris, Thanks for your kind words. I am delighted what I have written to date resonates with you. Only through an alliance with a diverse population will people with a disability truly make inroads to equality. Welcome!

The Untoward Lady said...

Wow, thank you very much, William. I have to say I'm honored that you read (and enjoy) my corner of the interwebs.

The attitude that your son's teacher expressed about how accessibility is a medical issue rather than a civil rights issue is, I feel, all too common. I feel that if more people were to come to understand how our civil rights are, in fact, civil rights and not medical thingymabopers it would, more than anything else, advance our fight for equality.

william Peace said...

Untoward Lady, The stigma and social isolation I encounter is directly comparable to what gays and transgender people experience. I consider activists in this area my allies. And yes your blog is very good.
I agree disability is thought to be medical problem first and foremost. This is a huge problem that has yet to be overcome. I suggest we need an entirely new model of disability as the medical and social model are inherently flawed. Getting that new model accepted, one ted to civil and human rights, is going to be a long hard struggle.