“Hi, how are you?”
It was the wrong question to ask me at that time. I’m at a conference and facing a lot of issues regarding accessibility. I have to be in a different hotel because the host hotel doesn’t have fully accessible rooms, there is no where for me to sit in my wheelchair in the sessions except the wide aisles, and the straw that broke me was the fact that the washroom on the conference level floor isn’t accessible and I have to push down to the elevators and ride down. I had to wait as people streamed around me to the washrooms to get my chair turned around and get out of there. Then I had to find where the accessible washroom was, and then I had to get there.
I was upset.
I was angry.
My arms were tired from pushing on really thick carpet.
Then, just about at the washroom, I saw someone I knew who said, “Hi, how are you?” and I lost every social skill that I had. I launched into a series of complaints, I talked about my toileting needs, I talked about my chair placement. I dumped it all out. It wasn’t pretty because I was pretty worked up.
Then Joe appeared and indicated that the downstairs washroom was indeed accessible and I rolled off.
I didn’t even ask her how she was.
Yep, a social skills meltdown.
A few minutes later, back in a conference session, I began to think about how I just took that opening and ran with it. I know we know each other but, really, did she need that in her day?
Having a disability often means carrying around a bit of anger and frustration. But I don’t want it to make me into an angry and frustrated man. I want to be aware of the needs and feelings of others, not just focused on my issues, my feelings and my needs.
I want to disconnect myself, from a set of circumstances, in order to connect with another person.
And I didn’t do that.