bio_dave_hingsburgerHe arrived just as I was nearing the end of the aisle. Because of the displays a narrow passageway had been created. One person at a time would be able to make it through. I am expert now in knowing if my chair will fit through any particular space and was sure it would accommodate me. But he got there first and was standing blocking the passageway looking at something on the display.

I was in a bit of a rush and said to him politely … let me pause here and state that I know how to modulate my voice to make a request of a non-disabled person … it has to be a little bit ‘Tiny Tim’ and a little bit ‘stranded waif’ and a little bit ‘poor weak thing’ and a lot of ‘I’d be so grateful’ … I know how to use that voice because I use it all the time just to make a request that people get out of my damn way. So, unpause … I said to him politely, “Could I just slip through here please?”

He looks at me and is immediately annoyed. Maybe because I don’t look like Tiny Tim or a Stranded Waif or a Poor Weak Thing, in any case, he said, “You’ll have to wait, I’m shopping.”

Now here’s the thing, I’m not Tiny Tim or a Stranded Waif or a Poor Weak Thing and I’m not full of gratitude for people simply behaving in a civil manner when in public spaces, even though I use that voice to get people to move their carts or their kids or their asses out of my pathway. So, I said, in a much different voice, “Look, I’m only asking that you let me by, I’m not asking you to give up anything more than a moment or two, what’s the big deal?”

The change in tone surprised him and said, “Why do you expect to be treated differently just because you are in a wheelchair, and by the way if you drop a bit of weight, you’d not need those wheels.”

“OK, Dr. Jerk, MD. You’ve made a misdiagnosis my weight and my disability are separate issues. And here’s the thing, I’m not asking for something special, you are blocking a pathway that the smallest of children would have to ask you to move. This wasn’t a disabled request it’s an anyone request. But not to worry, I’ll back up and you won’t have to be disturbed from living your life as an asshole.”

He’s mad now and says, “Alright, just get the fuck by,” and he moves.

“No,” I said, “I’ll back up, you stay in asshole rut, and see where that takes you a few years from now.”

“Don’t call me an asshole and aren’t you being an asshole for backing all the way back down the aisle when I’ve moved.”

I’m further from him now and I stop, look at him, and say, “I want nothing from you. Nothing.”

And there ended another moment in the pleasant life of being disabled and needing space in a world where disabled people live with space a gift rather than a given.

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