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Thursday, 7 February 2013

When Two Wheelies Hang-Out

A couple years ago,my then-boyfriend and I were scooting around Loblaws on a vicious mission to be successful, full-grown, healthy-eating twenty-somethings. In the thin mac-and-cheese aisle, a woman in her early 50s did a double-take of our side-by-side wheelchairs, caught my eye with her staring and said, “Oh, how cute!”
I’m ridiculously used to this infantile, ignorant reaction when people

see two people in wheelchairs in close proximity. I’ve had best friends in wheelchairs since my second year in university, and I’ve since graduated, so I've pretty much heard it all. Other versions of this awkward proclamation include:

“Awe, isn’t that nice” Is what nice? You think it’s nice that both of us have trouble reaching the top-of-the shelf 2% milk?
No racing, you two.” Fuck. How did he know my plan? Now I have to leave the pads I was gonna shoplift while racing out of here. Talk about buzzkill.
And of course, my personal, though much over-used favorite:
Woah, it’s a party in here.” Party? Where? Oh right. Wherever there’s two people in wheelchairs it’s a party. Because we’re that cool, obviously.

Some people in wheelchairs let these uncomfortable reactions rain on their wheelie parade. And they’ve got damn good reason.But me, if I didn’t laugh at it, I’d bawl my eyes out. In the middle of the store. Fall out of my chair into the fetal position. The whole nine-yards.
So I laugh, and say something equally ridiculous like, “I know I’m cute, thank-you” with a big, cheesy smile. It’s the closest I come to “fuck-you.”
Because really, it is intensely patronizing and non-sensical. If you’re lacking perspective on this, just picture a person approaching a bi-racial couple and saying “Don’t you go making too many beautiful mixed-raced babies, you two.” They’d get punched in the face. Or purse-slapped, maybe spit on. Or all three.
Maybe next time I’m out with my friend, and a spectacularly ignorant comment comes my way, I’ll smile my cheesiest and back into them. Yes?

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