This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.
by Phillip Parris
Now, why do people do the things they do? I don’t think I will ever find the answer to this riddle. Standing tall as a person with a disability (metaphorically speaking) I can tell you that we are noticed in public, but don’t think we don’t notice how weird you are. People seem comfortable enough to do the strangest things to disabled people, I have yet to figure out why.
I was sitting in Barnes & Noble enjoying a nice refreshing cup of iced coffee while reading the book Fight Club. I was rather pleased with the concept of the book and enjoyed being immersed in a world where civilized men can beat the shit out of each other and then not talk about it. I had previously seen the movie and I will not talk about it. As usual my assistant was sitting next to me. She was lost in an entirely different world of magazines.
I had your everyday paperback edition of the book propped up on another thicker book so that the angle was appropriate for reading. I have the means of technology for reading electronically, but sometimes a paper-book feels more noteworthy. Every so often I would ask my assistant to turn the page for me because I do not possess the strength to do so myself.
I was deeply in tune with my book and didn’t notice the stranger approaching me. At first I was startled when I looked up and realized the young man was towering over our table intently watching me read. “Hello?” I said briefly. “How does he read?” the stranger asked my assistant. “With my eyes?” I replied with a puzzled tone. “But how does he turn the page?” he asked my assistant again as though I were too incompetent to respond. “Does he use his mind to turn the page?” asking the assistant again. “Yes buddy, here is how I turn the page. Now try to keep up with me on this one. Kelly turn the page.” My assistant smiles reaches over and turns the page for me. The strangers face turns beet red and he doesn’t leave with a farewell or admittance to his ignorance, but quickly scurries off.
I eventually finished the book, along with my cup of coffee, and made my way back into the mall. I wanted to see what was going on in the fashionable world of Macy’s so I headed in that general direction. Sure, I got sidetracked a couple of times along the way. A teenage girl was clearly pretending to have an authentic Asian accent when she made the offer, “Fwee chickon shampul?” My assistant took her up on the offer, I declined. We continued onward towards the destination of the ever-so-desirable Macy’s. Before entering the department store, I had my assistant remove the now empty Starbucks cup from my cup-holder and throw it away.
One thing I’ve learned in my life is that you do not want to go shopping with the female sort in Macy’s (it’s enough to drive a sane man mad). Shortly after entering the store we parted ways momentarily. I was browsing through the men’s section when I noticed the wide array of colors they offered in Polo’s. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a strange looking man approaching me. I must admit that I was a little nervous. I was alone. And earlier that week there was a local shooting and they had not caught the gunman. He approached me in a very serious manner and started to digging in his front pockets. At this point I’m freaking out, debating on whether I should run or start screaming. I held my cool. The frightening man pulled out a handful of change and dropped it in my cup-holder and said, “God bless.” Now under such circumstances I should be extremely thankful and I know it probably meant a lot to this guy. I bit my lip and squeezed out the words, “thank you.” But I was really thinking, “What the hell, I’m sitting in Macy’s admiring a $167.98 Ralph Lauren Polo dress shirt, wearing clothes that cost more than the Polo I was looking at, my wheelchair cost 3x his car, but this man feels that I need his spare change.”
I could feel my face turn a beet red out of sheer anger. I immediately found my assistant and she asked, “What was that guy doing?” “The guy gave me his change,” I said with a puzzled look on my face. She started laughing, “Well let’s see what you are worth.” We dug the very little coinage from my cup-holder. I was worth $0.87 to be exact. Not even worth a buck according to this strange guy.
As we exited the mall, my assistant held the door and ended the shopping evening with the statement, “Let’s face it Phillip, we could all use a little change.”