As Roomie and I were walking toward our favorite local grub haunt this afternoon, a woman leaving the restaurant said to me, "The things people won't do to get a free ride," and laughed.
Now, it was clear to me that there was no malice behind the comment, and so I just smiled and said, "Oh, yes, ma'am," because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to be an asshole because it was clear she was clumsily trying to interact with that oh-so-exotic cripple, but inside, I was howling. What makes people think it's a good idea to say things like that to anyone, let alone a complete stranger? That's like me looking at an old, wheezing, leather-headed emphysema sufferer and saying, "Looks like you really went all out to earn that pure air and senior discount, LOL!" It's inappropriate and rude and rage-inducing.
Look, able folks, I know that it can be scary to interact with a disabled person, but a good rule of thumb is to treat them as you'd treat any able person you meet on the street. Say hello if that's your wont, walk on by if it isn't. Treat them like just another person because that's who they are. Odds are you're not as witty as you think you are, and attempting to connect with disabled folks through their disability usually ends in painful embarrassment for everyone.
After she left, I thought about that anonymous German poster who waded in here a few months back to tell me that I should consider rude strangers' feelings and circumstances when they said or did something offensive, selfish, or ignorant that made my day harder. I wondered how they would have responded if that woman had heard them speaking German and chirped, "Oh, I bet you drink a lot of beer," or "Oh, you don't look like a kraut." I wondered if they would have smiled or joked and been gracious about it, or if they would have circled their thumb and forefinger and told the gormless twit to get roundly fucked by a pinecone. I wondered how they would have reacted if that had been the third time or the tenth time or the three hundredth time. How long it would have taken before that forced smile turned into a moue of distaste and then a snarl of frustration. Not long, I suspect.
Remarks like that, even when made without malice, wear on you. They're like grains of sand dropped onto the same patch of skin; one is negligible and easily ignored, but then there's ten, and one hundred and one thousand, and soon, you're raw and irritated and desperate to soothe the constant, smarting burn. Even the most sanguine people reach a tipping point where one more grain is one too many, and then they snap. And when they do, they're met with wet-eyed incredulity and accusation of ingratitude and assholery because they didn't take the joke in the spirit in which it was intended.
And then you feel like a douche because the last thing you wanted to do when you left the house was hurt someone, and because you have the sinking feeling that in responding as anyone would to the repeated prodding of a wound, you have just perpetuated the bitter cripple stereotype. Whee and fuck and nobody wins. But if you grin and bear it like a good little gimp, you can't seem to get the taste of bootblack off your tongue. Whee and fuck and nobody wins
A first pimp for A Little Night Magic
. I might pimp it again once LJ stabilizes completely to make sure folks who are interested don't miss it, but other than that, it's back to the mythpool.
And because I wanted some Rammstein loveliness today:( Hello, Hot Stuff )