bio_dave_hingsburger“Good for you!” her enthusiasm broke through my concentration as I compared ingredients in one can of veggie chili with another. I like shopping. I like looking at prices and products and making informed decisions. I don’t like my disability giving people some kind of perceived permission to break into my life, grab my attention and yank it somewhere else. I looked up at her. Smiling. Nice. “I’ve noticed you pushing yourself around the store. Good for you!” I’ve written before about how this kind of creeps me out. Like someone announcing they’ve been peeking into your world and watching you. I nod.

“Most of you people seem to prefer being pushed around rather than pushing yourself, nice to see you putting effort in.”

Smiling? Nice? My opinion is changing.

Before I go on let me say that the store seemed to be chock full of wheelchair users. It must have been ‘Cripple Day’ or something because there were a lot of people there. One used a power chair. One was being pushed by someone else. Three others were pushing themselves. Now I know that on any given day with any different group of disabled people those numbers could be very different.

“Having a disability means that you put effort in every single day, if not in one way, in another,” I said.

“Well, I just wanted to say that I’m cheering you on!” She had noticed my tone and this was her parting shot. I don’t think she saw it as a shot, but it was.

This is the problem, isn’t it?

People don’t hear what they say in the way we, or at least me, as disabled persons hear it. I hear insult and prejudice and intrusion. She hears compliments and encouragement.

I’m not sure how to handle these situations. I want so shop, not give a master class in disability manners. I know these are opportunities for learning but I don’t want to be forced to take every opportunity for teaching. I just want to know which brand of chili I’m going to buy based of a very strict criteria that I apply in making this decision.

I know that she meant this to be a pleasant interaction, I’m sorry that I couldn’t pretend that it was.

I used to be able to pretend.

But I can’t any more.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

But it is what it is, at least at this point in my evolution as a disabled person who likes to be out in the world but not always part of it.