Now, let’s be clear, I’m not hiding anything in my wallet that I don’t want Joe to see. I do not have identification papers for the secret superhero that I become, “Phat Tire: He’s so mean he’d roll over Beethoven!” It’s nothing like that.my wallet just has wallet stuff in it, but the thing is, it’s mine and it’s only mine.
So, wallets are a big deal to me.
Yesterday I was in the line up behind a man with both an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy. He walked with a walker, his speech was slow but clear, and he was chatting with the clerk. When I joined the line, no one else had been standing there, they sped up the purchasing process. He got out his wallet and pulled out some bills and then opened the small change pocket in his wallet to get out some coin. It was at this point that the clerk leaned over and began to reach into that same small pocket to help him get the change out more quickly. I saw his face.
I saw his face.
He didn’t like it.
I got it.
I’d hate it.
A wallet is private space.
I said to him, “You just need to tell her.” He shook his head, clearly embarrassed at being caught being angry at someone being nice. “No,” he said to me, “it’s alright.”
“Okay,” I said, “it’s none of my business, but me, I’d speak up.”
You understand that the clerk stopped what she was doing and was listening to us. She turned to him and said, “Speak up about what, tell me what?” His face went red. He was trapped.
And I felt the immediate asshat. I had no right to jump in and try to help.I was doing exactly what she was doing, except she was reaching into his private wallet, I was reaching into his private thoughts. That need to grab the handles of my wheelchair, that intrusion that I don’t like to the point of hating it – well there I was, the handles on the back of his disability gave me a permission that wasn’t real.
“I don’t like it when you reach into my wallet. I can get the change myself.” He said it without looking at her and with a few angry glances towards me. As big as I am I felt very small.
“OH! OH! OH!” she said, “I was just trying to help.”
“I know, but I don’t like it.”
“Why didn’t you say something before?”
“It’s hard for me,” he said, “I know that people are just being nice.”
It will surprise you but I kept my mouth shut and my opinion on that did not cross my lips.
“You should tell people what you want and what you don’t want,” she said, “because now I feel bad.”
He was now getting upset. He didn’t want to upset her or for her to feel bad.
I did this. I created this mess.
They came to resolution. She wouldn’t help him any more with the change and he would tell her when or if he needed help.
He left and I approached the counter. She thanked me for my intervention.
That’s an important distinction.