We’d had lunch and, unexpectedly, had nothing to do for about an hour before the bus came to get us. I’m using my manual chair a lot because my power chair is in the shop and my scooter needs a new battery. I can’t afford to fix both and, right now, the priority is the power chair. (How can a battery for a wheelchair cost $1000? I don’t get it.) I’m looking at this as an opportunity to further work on strength and distance so I asked if Joe would mind mucking around on the Internet via our phone while I ‘lapped’ the food court. He agreed and I set off.
It’s not a big food court so when I was back in a few minutes we both laughed and I said that I was going to do several more. I went again and on the second lap I noticed a man with an intellectual disability trying to have his lunch. He was seated at the high tables that were set around the edge of the seating section and he was trying to ignore the girls who were pressing him for money. His focus on his food, his focus away from them was laser like. I pushed on by.
I picked up my speed heading round another time. When I got back they were pressing in on him. I slowed down and pushed right up and stopped only an inch or two in front of one of the girls, the one standing in front of him, the one in my path. That’s all I did, I stopped. She, without ceasing the pressure on him to give up some cash, stepped out of my way. I turned my chair so I was still facing her. Now she considers me, “Do you know him?” she said pointing to the fellow with a disability who looked at me with relief in his eyes. “No, and neither do you,” I said. It was clear that I wasn’t leaving until they did though not another word was said. They left, he thanked me.
I rode around twice more, wanting to ensure that they didn’t come back after I left. They didn’t. on the second time around after the incident, he had packed up and left.
I’d like to make two points:
1) It doesn’t take a lot of time to actually do something about bullying and intimidation of another person. Not only doesn’t it take a lot of time, it takes a lot less time than doing nothing and feeling the guilt and self recrimination that we would all feel for not stepping up.
2) Just ignore it is not a strategy that works. It’s taught so often to so many as a means of dealing with the routine social violence that people with difference and disability deal even though it’s an epic fail as a strategy in the real world. Teach real solutions for living in the real world that have real effect.
On my way out, I rolled by one of the two girls involved in pressuring the disabled guy for money. She was with some kids her age hanging around a table. As I went by she called out “fat pig” and I turned and smiled at her. That startled her, it wasn’t the effect that she expected her words to have. But, trust me, the fact that I held no value in her eyes was a fact that I didn’t value in any way. “I’d rather live in my heart than yours honey,” I said. “Any day of the week.” And then I turned and rolled towards the elevator.