Image description: A simply drawn picture of a man in power chair escaping from a jail cell.
After work yesterday, Joe and I headed out for a bit of a wander. We knew that a big winter storm was heading our way and that the likelihood was that it would be difficult to get around for the next couple of days. Once we were out we discovered quickly that the road was already slick and treacherous . My back wheels were doing fishtails and Joe was holding on to my chair for a kind of uneasy support. So, we decided to just go into the mall. It wasn’t out out, but it was still out.
Joe went into the first entrance that we came to. It is down a long set of stairs, we agreed to meet at the security desk which is at the bottom of the northernmost set of elevators. I continued on, carefully driving so that I’d not lose control and that I’d not smack into someone walking.
I followed two women for a bit, the were obviously heading for the same entrance as I. They didn’t take the ramp, preferring the stairs and I zipped up the ramp. I waited, politely, for them to go through the doors, and I then followed. One of the women made a comment about winter weather to me, I answered in kind, the other asked me if it was dangerous to be in a power chair in the snow, fair question, I answered that it took skill but it wasn’t risky. Then, and there’s almost always a then when discussing any part of life with a disability with those outside the community, one woman said, “I’m just so surprised that they would let you out on a day like this.”
I said, “There is no ‘they.'” But I said it to closed minds and met blank smiles.
I hadn’t the time or inclination for a tantrum.
I’ve been asked about ‘them’ before, the ‘they’ whose permission I seem to need to be out and about and living in the community. I’ve been asked if ‘they’ know what I’m doing. I’ve been asked where ‘they’ are. I’ve been asked if ‘they’ think it’s OK for me to be spending my money the way I’ve been spending my money.
I’d never stopped to wonder who they picture ‘they’ to be? Where do they think I come from? A locked cell? A locked ward? Do they think I live behind a locked door where ‘they’ have the key and I do not? Is this part of their fear of disability … the coming of the ‘they’? That disability means that there is a ‘they’ who takes control of one’s life and captures you with protection?
Who are THEY?
Well, actually, I am ‘they’ to some of the people I serve. I hope I’m not as they imagine me to be. I hope we all aren’t as they imagine. I hope I’m not a captor. I hope I’m not someone’s permission giver.
I don’t want a ‘they’ as imagined by two women on the street.
I don’t want to be the ‘they’ that they imagine either.
Shit, and we were just going out for a walk. I met Joe waiting for me to get off the elevator, he had such a hopeful look. A ‘please don’t tell me a blog happened today’ look. So I gave in to him, and we finished our walk. I kicked ‘them that’s they’ to the side and we went on our way unencumbered.