bio_dave_hingsburgerWe were walking back to the hotel along a sidewalk of a large outdoor mall. I was acclimatizing to being outside my home and work neighbourhoods. You see, even though I live in the centre of Canada’s largest city, and even though there are thousands of tourists on the streets, year round, where I live feels very neighbourhoody. People in shops and stores know me, many by name, and we make our way comfortably around. Sure I get the stares and the rude comments but those are, most often, from people who visit the area not those who live there. When I visit somewhere new, there aren’t the clerks and the bench regulars who have become familiar with my face and shape and wheels. Everyone reacts in some way or another, even those who struggle to not react are reacting. It can get wearing to have no relief.

So on our way back an incident occurred that I didn’t write about. Partly because that night I got very sick. Partly because I don’t know what you’ll think of what I did and, also, partly because I don’t know what I think of what I did.

I admit, I snapped.

I’d had enough.

We were nearing the exit when we both noticed a mother, looking down at her phone, and two children, say 8 and 12 who were openly gawking at me. The older child, the boy, pointed at me and made a remark to his sister using a vulgar term for what I looked like, she answered back, adding flair to his comment. His mother looked at him, hearing the words her children spoke and then looked up and saw me. Now I expected a reaction, her child was just really crudely and needlessly cruel to a total stranger. But I didn’t get the reaction I expected, instead, she smiled, the sight of me making his remark suddenly OK and even somewhat amusing.

Joe tensed.

We rolled by them and I suddenly came to a stop. Full stop. Joe whispered, “Let it go.” He said that, I think, because he didn’t hear the loud ‘snap’ that I’d heard when my tolerance for meanness broke. I spun my chair, loving the fact that it turns in spot a full circle. I’m facing them. The little girl sees me turn and alerts her mother and brother. She senses what’s coming.

I don’t speak to the mother.

Why would I?

She doesn’t care.

I spoke to the children.

“Do you think,” I asked in a voice that was firm but neither loud or angry, “that it’s OK to treat people the way you treated me? Do you? Do you think I don’t hear your words and feel the impact of them? Don’t you care that what you do has an effect on people? Do you think it’s OK to be mean to someone because they are different? It’s that how you want to be in life? Do you want to grow up and become bullies and bad guys?”

Everyone was frozen in time.

Mother was seething angry but knew better than to escalate this by entering.

I’d finished and waited.

“I’m not leaving until you answer me. Do you think that what you did to me was OK? Is that how you want to be?”

The little girl, said, “No, and I’m sorry.”

The boy turned and started to walk away. The mother, flustered, shot me a look of pure hatred, and grabbed her daughter and hustled after her son.

I turned the chair.

We went back to the hotel.

I did what I did and I can’t take it back. I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong. I don’t know if I had any justification in speaking to those children, I’m careful about interacting with other people’s children. But I did it. I don’t know that I’ll ever do it again but I don’t know that I won’t.

Sometimes, when we’ve had enough.

We’ve had enough.