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Monday, February 1, 2016

Welcome to My Life

I was at Wegmans yesterday. I will readily admit I love Wegmans. Good food, good prices, good employees. The store represents the culture of Central New York. Good hard working people live in New York. Goodness abounds. Goodness has a downside when one ventures out on Sunday. I was in Wegmans with my son yesterday. The store was relatively crowded. There was a long line at the deli counter and I was in the mood for pastrami. I had my son get in line for me while I continued shopping. I was looking for an item when a tall young woman silently got my attention. She awkwardly bent at the waist and got her face far too close to mine and in a very slow deliberate voice stated "Can... I...help...you". Yikes, I thought, this young woman must have taken a disability etiquette class circa 1955. It does not happen often but I was rendered speechless. The young woman then stated "I...can...help...you...I...can...read...the labels. I...can...read". This was so over the top I was mute. I just replied in a neutral voice "no".

When my son returned with my pastrami I told him what took place. He laughed and said "Dad, you should get PhD Columbia University tattooed on your forehead". This is so sad it is funny. Not good funny. Bad funny. The woman in question was likely taught or assumed all people with a physical disability also have significant cognitive deficits.  Where do bipedal people learn this shit? My next thought was I have a relatively acceptable body. I use a manual wheelchair. I am not a big man. I will forever wonder why people fear approaching me. And yes bipedal people do fear people with a disability. The more obvious the disability the more fearful bipedal others become. Mothers reinforce this on a regular basis as I hear them tell their children "watch out for the wheelchair". I have been thinking about fear a lot recently. I am deeply worried about my future. My time at Syracuse might be coming to an end. I am applying to jobs in different cities across the nation. Will a university hire me who has a body that is feared. Maybe, maybe not. On a stormy, wet and warm winter morning I am fearful for good reason. I am 55 years old and might be unemployed when the semester ends.

7 comments:

Moose said...

It's one of those armchair-quarterback responses, but I would have wished I'd said, "You can READ?! Congratulations! That's a big struggle for some people and I hope you're proud of your accomplishment!"

william Peace said...

Moose, Don't you wish your mind could work that fast and strike back with a pithy quip.

Carwile said...

I'd probably ask for her fun number and what she is doing this weekend

william Peace said...

I did expect to laugh today. You gave me a chuckle.

Michael Rotella said...

I use a mobility scooter and throughout my late teens and early twenties I was consistently offered kid's menus at restaurants. Actually I wasn't offered them, whoever else was with me was asked "Does he need a kid's menu?" I often wonder exactly what you said: where do they learn this shit?

Moose said...

yeah. Truth is, I'm rather a loudmouth. I'd more likely say, "WHAT THE [CENSORED] IS WRONG WITH YOU???!"

DJ Hammon said...

Want a fun battle? Apply for jobs running Centers for Independent Living (shit pay, but critical work) or heading State rehab programs. You cannot believe what shit many of these have become. Your know how and experience could shuffle all those ableists our of jobs intended for people with disabilities who GET IT!