Search This Blog

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...". 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 " labels.". 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.