Monday, June 12, 2006

A little tale for Sally

Sally was abused in the street whilst out in her powerchair and I was going to tell this little cheering story in her comments, but I thought I would put it here instead.

I am fortunate enough never to have received any overt abuse from strangers - in my more vertical days I had a bit of low-level sexual stuff and in the wheelchair I get the usual patronisation and crap, plus all those hilarious comments about speed limits, jet-engines and go-faster stripes. Oh my, how I laugh!

However one day, when I started using my powerchair, I was a bit nervous about running into trouble. After all, I was going out by myself for the first time in years and in the manual chair I was always with [...] who is a 6'2" sixteen-stone skinhead and tends to go through life miraculously unharassed.

Anyway, I was trundling along an isolated stretch of road, where I spotted a crowd of young lads of about fourteen or fifteen, all dressed in black with unkempt hair, hunched shoulders and scowls on their faces - you know the type - and they were occupying the entire width of the pavement.

No lowered kerbs nearby, so no chance of crossing the road without it being obvious if I attempted to avoid them entirely, so I rode right up to them and said, "Excuse me please."

No response.

"Excuse me please!"


"Excuse me PLEASE!"

At my third request they all jumped a foot in the air, and proceeded to line up wit their backs flat against the wall, giving me far more room than I needed to pass, all making their apologies as they did so. One of the lads was slower to move and had himself violently dragged to the side by his peer who snapped at him, "Get out of the lady's way, you spaz!"

Which I must confess made me smile somewhat.

On a serious note, the fact that Sally's abuser was wearing a suit and these lads behaved as they did says much about books and their covers. I also wanted to say that, folks who abuse wheelchair-users would most likely abuse anyone who seems like an easy target. Which doesn't make it any less upsetting or intimidating, but it does mean that there is little room for analysing why any of us become victims. These twats are fairly indiscriminate, like playground bullies.


eclectech said...

I like being surprised by people. I try very hard not to make assumptions but it can be difficult... when a moment of surprise is still fresh in your mind it can be easier to be aware of, and question, your own assumptions.

I imagine the person having a go at AJ experienced a healthy moment of surprise as well.

imfunnytoo said...

Man, I wish I'd had a sword in my vertical days. :)

Then, maybe I could have intimidated the homeless guys that used to approach me on the way to work and ask really inappropriate questions...

marmiteboy said...

I was once verbally abused by a couple of blokes in a pub, they called me all kinds of expressive and wonderous names that reminded me that I was mobility impaired ( I was glad of it, for I had temporarily forgotten).

Personally it was water off a ducks back as I got all kinds of name calling at school, but my mate was so angry he wanted to hit them. It was quite an odd scene. There was me trying to talk someone out of hitting someone else for calling me names!! Thankfully I suceeded and there was no violence.

pete said...

I can just see the headlines now(Sun):
Man Rapiered In Whitby!


Okay I'll épée off;-)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Lovely start to the day.

I've never been abused openly though there have been the odd stare or whispered comment when I wobble; people usually assume I'm drunk, I think.

I remember shaking a tin for charity once; all these rich middle-class types with trollies full of booze and designer ready-meals ignoring us and the only ones who put money in were obvious OAPs and one little Goth.

I've always had a soft spot for Goths ever since.

Mary said...

The worst bit for me is if I'm sitting in my chair in a shopping mall, "parked up" and alone while whoever's with me is attending to other matters (getting the car or going to the loo or looking in a shop that's too crowded for me or whatever). I always get more stares then.

The stares isn't the problem. It's the fact my walking stick is on the chair and every so often I'm tempted to start POKING these open-mouthed people with it...

kethry said...

I'm not in a wheelchair but i had to chuckle when i read what you wrote about AJ. You see, my OH has a friend, lets call him Dave, who is very similar in personality - both geeks, sys admins, like to dress in combat boots, camoflauge trousers, black tshirts, black leather jackets. It seems to be the sys admin uniform (either that or black jeans). OH is about 6 ft, which is okay, but Dave is even taller, about 6 ft 4, and his hair is shaven at the sides, dreads growing from the top, and a lovely sort of beard which wiggles with his chin. In reality he's incredibly gentle, wouldn't hurt a soul (unless they threatened someone he cares about) but... when myself and Dave's OH are walking behind Dave and my OH in a crowd, its like magic... *laughs*.. moses and the parting of the red sea had nothin on my OH and Dave!!!


Sally said...

Dearest Goldfish, thank you, thank you. Your comments on my 'Hiccups' and your following post did warm the cockles and made me chuckle. Goths are often sweet things in my limited experience too. AJ ... the pictures your blog conjured up ... wonderful ! And all the following comments to your post ... its knowing that it is not just me, and that fellow crips care, that transforms an isolating and negative event, into an important stage of the journey.
I hope for everyone that abuse received is a rare experience.
Thank you bloggers all.

The Goldfish said...

It is curious, isn't it? I mean, I don't think I have ever been verbally abusive to any strangers. I have been a little short with folks phoning up to sell me stuff, but only when courteous disinterest doesn't get them off the phone.

Glad you're feeling happier about it, Sally. :-)

BloggingMone said...

I just don't understand how some people's minds work. As I am not disabled I do not get any verbal abuse apart from things like "Did you win your driving liscense in a lottery?!" or that like. But as soon as I am out and about with disabled friends and/or colleagues no one seems to consider the possibility that not everyone of that group is disabled. When I am talking in Sign Language to others, everyone around seems to assume that I am deaf as well and therefore comment on our signing and make remarks about deafness in general in a very loud voice. "They can't hear it anyway, can they?" I would never and have never pretended to be deaf, when being approached directly, but I never know what to do in such cases. Should I say something or not?
This was the worst that ever happened to me: We were sitting in a restaurant, another interpreter, my husband and me (all three non disabled) plus two deaf people, a person in a wheelchair and someone who is blind. The other interpreter was chatting with the deaf friends in sign language and therefore looked deaf herself. The blind person had leaned his white cane to my husband's chair, so everyone obviously thought he must be blind as well. I was the only "problem" to those observing us. And a man from the next table actually got up, walked over to us and asked me:"Excuse me, but we have been wondering what's WRONG with you?" I just wished for the floor to open and swallow me up. The blind person at our table put on a big grin and said "Well, if this is the table for everyone who has got something "WRONG" with him- or herself, you should definitly take your chair and join us!" He was called impolite after that.