This is an annual Christmas tradition for my friends and I where we do a pub crawl wearing our most festive, obnoxious, Christmas attire and attempt to drink at least one beverage in each bar before we either a) get kicked out or b) run out of time. I’m certain you have made the connection by this point that there are 12 bars that we go to, and there is a 12 days of Christmas song. And yes! It correlates! It goes a little something like this…
On the first bar of Edmonds my bartender gave to me a Lager at Anthonys
On the second bar of Edmonds my bartender gave to margarita at Rory’s
I’m kidding, I would not subject you to the entire 12 bars of Edmond song because I suspect that you have that damn song stuck in your head.
The point being, that we were knee-deep in beer and we’re having one hell of a good time; Christmas in July! This year we decided to do it in the summer to correlate with a friends birthday. Plus, why not?
Last Saturday I had about 20 friends participating, coming and leaving at various times in the evening. By the time we got to the last bar about 9 soldiers remained. It was kind of a tiny little tavern and we spotted the perfect sticky little table to sit and celebrate the last bar at. As I was rolling towards it this man in his mid 50s came up to me with sad puppy dog eyes and said “Oh my God! Why are you in that chair?” Not an usual question but a quite forward question. I was feeling pretty good so rather than a F off, I decided to indulge him ever so slightly and tell him curtly – car accident. He gets his puppy dog eyes and bumbles out some repetitive I am so sorries and I feel so bad.
I think, hey! This could be a super learning opportunity. He is clearly working through something emotionally, maybe I can give him a hand. So through my moderately drunken haze and with my most awesome politically correct attitude I reply. “Thank you for your concern, you don’t need to be sorry, and you don’t need to feel bad. I don’t feel bad for me, I am having a great time tonight”.
And then I start to ghost- just slooowly roll out of the conversation and back to the table where a riveting conversation on whether or not obese penguins exist was taking place.
You know that’s not the end of that right? Old man puppy dog eyes makes his way over about five minutes later and asked to pull up a chair and before I can reply he sort of plops down. This time he tries to look me in the eyes and he slowly says “My Life is so bad”. Mmhmm mmhmm I’m sure it’s not that bad, maybe you have a friend over at the bar that you want to talk to, or it’s getting late, maybe you want to take a cab home. Then he takes a slow deliberate breath for dramatic effect and says… I kid you not… But your life is SO much worse.
Here comes the witch! YAY
Whoa! Back the shit train up! My life is not bad! I am here with all of my friends, I am happy, and your presence here is now hindering that! Please don’t pretend to know what my life is like just because I’m in a wheelchair. I don’t feel sorry for me, I don’t need your pity. I would much rather have your respect for being as independent and outgoing as I am than for not standing.
What I would’ve like to do is let out a big hmmph and stormed off somewhere – but I still had half a pint left and was not about to leave it behind.
The thing is, is that I think he was too drunk to really understand what I was saying. He sort of just let it gloss over him and continued sitting with a blank face on. A minute so later he said his goodbyes and was on his way.
I really don’t mind inquisitive questions, or chatting about my life, but what I really can’t do is talk with you if you’re sitting there feeling bad for me because then you make it about yourself.
We don’t need to do a little dance around the elephant in the room, by all means if you run into someone with some type of physical disability it’s OK to acknowledge it! Slide a chair in so I can get by, give me a smile and say “nice wheels”, you can even ask me a question about it. But follow it up with what my life has been like since the accident. Talk to me about:
- What I’ve been doing lately
- What I’ve been most excited or proud of recently
- How great my hair looks that night
- How excited we are for football season to start!
- Hobbies, pets, food!
Keep in mind that when talking to anyone with disabilities there may be no recovery for them so be sensitive when inquiring about this. Feel free to ask if I need help, if I do I will be grateful for it, and if I don’t I will find you a very generous person and will politely say hell no go away. Just kidding!
Here’s the thing, I don’t want anyone to shy away from conversations with me, or from anyone with any type of disability. What I do you want it’s for everyone to be reminded that we are more than JUST our disability. This principle applies to more than our physical exteriors. To your friend that has just gotten a divorce, or has cancer, experienced a death, lost a job, or had some other “tragedy”, focus on the person they are and not the situation they are in. Pity is just contempt and by focusing on these situations you make the person feel less valuable.
That night everything turned out quite all right. We had a really good laugh about it, and now I have made it into a nice little anecdote.
With lots more upcoming summer activities I know I can expect a lot more of these little gems!
By the way, look forward to a post in the near future about me going paragliding!