Bong

My mother was talking about renting a wheelchair to go to the Christmas stroll last night, so we looked on Amazon and got her a nice, small, “fly-weight” chair for $120.

That means it’s been three days in a row pushing her about, at one place or another. 

Oh!  I didn’t see you!”  That’s the phrase that seems to sum up the problems with people I have seen, that they are so self-focused, even in a crowded area, that they can’t see who else is around them.

Now I tend to write that off to entitlement, to people who think they own the world.  That aging, frowsy blonde with “PINK” written across her ass certainly was offended when we moved by her as she jabbered on her cell phone, shouting “Excuse Me! ” to her correspondent, and explaining how rude we were.  (Well, actually, it’s always how rude I am, because I am assigned full responsibility, as one would assign responsibility to a stroller pushing mom, even if a a woman pushing 300 pounds offers different challenges than a 25 pound two year old.)

Of course, this was the same woman in pink who had her partner stand blocking the asile with his shopping cart until she was damn ready.  12 year olds who think they are princesses are one thing, 42 year olds something else again.

One girl who was blocking a gap between the cases squeezed sideways and looked at us gimlet eyed.  Let me explain this: There is no way a wheel chair, even a fly-weight wheelchair is going to squeeze or bend for you.  Humans may be able to snake around you, but that chair is going to take up the same space, no matter how much you squeeze.

When the woman backed into me as I passed behind her at the dollar store, something she thought was a big deal, some suggested it was my responsibility to say excuse me more, to break the reverie shoppers get in.

I know to say “Excuse me” when I would like someone to move so I can pass.  That makes sense.

But how much do I have to be the warning klaxon sounding when passing every shopper who might move without thinking, might move without looking?

Because I am pushing a wheelchair, do I have the right or requirement to always be calling attention to our presence, to demand that they pay attention for everyone’s sake?  How many times would I have to do that in a few hours at a crowded mall?  How many times would I annoy people with my presumption and forced interuption of their shopping?

I get the fact that people don’t see what they don’t expect to see, and what they expect to see is limited by the tunnel of normative prejudice they carry with them, their assumption that they won’t be surprised.  I also get the fact that some people have such an assumption of privilege that they see every obstacle as an intrusion upon their god-given right to be the center of the world, thank you very much.

But I don’t know how to negotiate this kind of crap, finding the line between demanding attention and the fluster or anger of those who just didn’t see, just didn’t accomodate.

I’m sure this is common with the differently abled. Matt and Amy Rolloff (Little People, Big World) know that being little means that sometimes you need to talk like a bullhorn just to break into the attention of the normative.  It’s a challenge to be around people who just don’t understand, or worse, don’t even see.

Of course, I see parallels with being trans in the world, that line between having to speak up to be heard and not wanting to be in-your-face all the time.

But where is the damn level between demanding attention and not surprising people?

When do you go bong?