We’d landed. Joe and I were both mentally prepared for what was to happen next. Pearson Airport, in it’s wisdom, has completely carpeted the very long passageway from the gates where international flights dock to the Canadian Customs hall. It had been my determination, for months, to prepare to do this trip under my own strength. Looking down the long, long hallway that led to another long, long hallway, I almost relented and accepted help from the people sent to push me. But, I’d trained for this and I was going to at least try. We sent them on their way.

It was very, very, hard pushing. It seemed like they’d installed a newer, plusher, carpet from the last time I’d flown. At the end of the first hallway, I said to Joe that I didn’t think I was going to make it. But we’d sent away those who were to help me, so I just took several breaths and started up again. When I made it to Customs, I was elated. Almost done. Just needed to go through Customs, get our bags and then get to the spot where the bus would pick us up.

I know this airport well. I knew I had one longish ramp to face and then a fair push to the bus stop. I’d done carpet so I could do this. Joe waited at the top of the ramp, not even bothering to come and spot me on this one, I’d done ramps twice this length in the Metrocenter in Newcastle. But, just as I was getting to the top a man said, “May I help you,” while grabbing me. Not again! I grabbed my wheels and held them tight telling him “No” really firmly. He said, “I did ask,” and I said, “You grabbed me at the same time.” There was a moment of brittle hostility on both sides.

I had to then, near the top, with no momentum, push myself the last few agonizing inches. He watched me do this and then his face softened, “I’m really proud of you. Really, really, proud,” he said and then left. I had no time for this pride. The luggage took along time to come and we were cutting it fine for making the bus. So I just motored down the terminal towards the door where the bus comes. I flew.

On the bus, I began to think about why he thought that his pride in me would matter to me at all. He’s a stranger. But maybe he thought he was a representative for all non-disabled people who watch a person with a disability determinedly do something on their own, maybe it was a collective, “We’re proud of you.” I don’t know if you all remember a letter that went viral from some random dude to a fat person running on a track, but it was a kind of universal embracing of the effort the fat person was putting into becoming normal or some such shit. Yeeuck.

But, then, I thought, what if I had actually needed assistance? Would that make me someone who lived on the edge of pride, the outskirts of shame? What the hell? Assistance or Independence in the life of a person with a disability is an incredibly unique combination of factors that are singularly about that person and their life in their body. There is no room for comment.

And that’s it isn’t it?

There is no room for comment.

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