So I haven’t been around lately, because I’ve been, seriously and for real, actually out of the house for once in a while. No lie. This hermit thing is for the birds once summer hits, and I’m doing my best to actually get the kids in the open air as much as possible.
This is all made much, much easier by the fact that I have my new chair, which is utterly slick, and can now do things other than clutch my husband’s arm all day or somnambulate wincingly from parking-area to place-to-sit. It’s a good thing. Mostly. Sometimes it’s not, for reasons which are beyond my understanding but seem to revolve around the fact that I’m so terribly little and so terribly attractive. Or something. I don’t actually know many other people who have gotten quite as much of this sort of attention, although if I’m wrong please vent away in the comments section because holy hell, people can make some jackasses of themselves, can they not?
Case in point: Lately (as in, since I’ve had this chair and have no longer been a bitter, reclusive, jagged little housebound pill) I’ve been heading up to Local Rather Ritzy Little Suburb to do my work at Starbuck’s, take the kids to the park, wander around drinking espressos with my husband, and all the other things that I just plain haven’t done for a while. Seems a decent choice of place. The sidewalks are smooth, there are curb cuts, the stores are mostly accessible, there’s a decent amount to do, and there are a few hills to work the arms on as I’m slowly edging my way towards Angelina Jolie shoulders.
Which is the problem. Not the shoulders, the hills. I have gotten more unsolicited touching and potentially-dangerous-or-damaging “helping” then I thought possible, and while it happens all the time and my consent is apparently irrelevant to these people’s need to have some sort of do-gooder moment at my expense (someone actually ripped a cup out of my hand that I was placing in a trash can and tossed it in with a loud, satisfied “There!” and then waited to be thanked, my response was along the lines of “What just fucking happened?”), nowhere is this completely solipsistic behavior more in evidence than when the sidewalk begins to slope even ever so slightly towards the idea of becoming a hill.
Despite the invention, some time ago I believe, of a circular frame or disk arranged to revolve on an axis on vehicles or machinery (popularly known as the “wheel,”) people remain, apparently, very very daunted by hills. On my behalf. The situation is so dire, in fact, that it renders null and void any requirement for consent on my part to being touched, grabbed, or screamed at. Yeah, I’m being cute and sarcastically formal in the way I write this, and maybe it’s witty as hell or maybe it’s falling flat, but trust me this is the tone I take when I don’t even know what to do anymore. I’m at a loss. The things that have happened this week, all of which involve hills, have me this close to going back into the house permanently or starting to pack heat.
Nobody warned me. I knew people were asses, I knew that they’d talk to my husband instead of me if we were together*, I knew I’d hear jackassry such as “Oh, are we on an outing?” when I was at the pharmacy (response: “Actually, I’m trying to get my Adderall prescription and some lambskin condoms, latex sensitivity, thanks for asking, do they even make those anymore?”), but nobody told me that the hills would be the breaking point that finally proved to me that the rest of the world has gone utterly and completely batshit insane.
Here’s a brief summation of a few of the incidents I mean:
The farmer’s market: Not the first time this sort of thing happened, but the first time that the situation went beyond one in which I could continue to chirp “No thank you! No thank you!” and started letting the obscenities fly. You see, the Farmer’s Market I frequent and the ATM a block-and-a-half away are separated by… (cue the spooky music)… a HILL. OK, a pretty steep hill. It’s actually a hill that I practiced on a few times to make sure I was up to the hills on campus, before I took the chair out alone for the first time. It goes… up. On a grade. In one direction. As a hill does.
Halfway up I hear panting behind me. A fortyish woman who, let’s be frank, probably spends a good deal of her time praying to be in the sort of shape I’m in is laboriously clambering up behind me and, thinking she might need to pass, I pull aside and stop. Mildly annoying to stop on a steep grade, but no more so than having to hurry up on her behalf would be. When she catches up, I expect her to pass so that I can continue, but instead she stops and, proud as anything, beams “I came up here to help you!”
“Oh, thank you so much, that isn’t necessary,” I tell her.
“Oh, no, it’s fine, she says, and proceeds to dart out her hand and make a snatching sort of grab for the back of my chair. And right here is where I lose all sympathy for these people. It’s the grab. It’s not just that they’re touching without permission. Not just. It’s the fact that the grab is fast and the grab is furtive, because they know. They know they’re doing unwelcome shit. They just think they can get away with it.
I could really hold back a loud, startled “What are you doing?” and things devolved from there. She wouldn’t leave, just stood there, arms folded, yelling about how she was helping and I should be grateful and so on and so forth. Egh. Enough.
After she’d finally, finally gone away, I turned back up the hill again, sharing a shaking-our-heads-in-disbelief glance with my ten-year-old. Not two more feet up the hill it happened. Crack. The seat-back (which is extremely low) gets slammed into the small of my back, hard. Someone, a man this time, has apparently decided that he’s going to take over this going-up-the-hill thing for me and, not seeing any way to push the chair (because there isn’t one) has decided to grab the backrest and shove.
I was, at this point, beyond furious. Guy, as well, was livid at being challenged by the ought-to-be passive victim of his help. To quote Forster, “the man was young, the woman deeply stirred, in both a vein of coarseness was latent.” Anyone reading this blog knows there’s more than a vein of coarseness in this waif, and it ain’t all too latent–and my rescuer had quite the temper himself. Yelling. Screaming.
People. If you’re not certified to repair this chair, don’t put your hands on it unless you’re prepared to buy me a new one. Really. It’s bloody expensive and insurance covered none of it (but they’d cover a powerchair, which costs thousands more, how asinine is that?). Also, I sliced my own hand open (there’s apparently a reason this chair is named the Razorblade) and don’t really want to be liable for someone else’s misguided injury. Speaking of injury, I did call the police, and it is assault to grab someone’s chair, and the officer I spoke with said that it might even be possible to make a case for leaving-the-scene if you break something on the chair and then run off, refusing to give me your info. I wonder if I can charge it as a bias crime when they respond to the assault charge with “but she’s disabled!”
You can’t really predict what kind of quixotic, litigious lunatic is sitting in that chair you’re trying to grab, so why not try asking first? The ass you save may be your own.
On a much, much happier note, I’m hosting the disability blog carnival again! And, since last year’s carnival was almost a birth, I’m choosing to focus on the other side of the coin this year. Death! Death planning, spirituality, end-of-life issues, “right-to-die” legislation, and a look at some of the notably saddening losses the disability community has sustained in the past year. I have it on good authority that the next carnival is something like “fun in the sun,” so let’s all get good and goth with this one first, just to show we are many-layered and complex souls.
*the talking-to-my-husband-instead-of-me thing is amusing, but no more so than the people who will stand, purse their lips, tap their foot and glare at him for not “helping” me with everything from going over an itty bitty curb to opening my purse or somesuch. It’s really quite rude, and if they don’t stop we’re seriously considering putting on a whole show in which he berates me for not doing these things correctly (“It’s a little bitty curb cut! Jesus Christ, Hala!”) and I pretend to cry. Since obviously, the people want a show.