December 25, 2009 Leave a comment
If I had a car, I wouldn’t park in handicapped spaces. I generally avoid sitting in the seats at the front of the bus; I don’t see the point in taking a seat that I’ll probably feel compelled to give up anyway. I say these things so that you don’t think I have some sort of hate-on for those who are differently-abled. Because what I’m going to say next might leave you with that impression—but it’s part of an overall point.
I sing in a community choir and as with most community-based groups, there is a clear mandate of accommodation. And believe me, I think this is a good thing. I don’t think anyone should be kept from engaging in an activity in which they can reasonably participate simply because of a disability that doesn’t, ultimately, pertain to the activity in question. So, in my choir, there’s a small contingent of people with various mobility issues. For the most part I don’t really take too much notice of this fact because, for the most part, the people with these issues don’t make a national event of them. People ask for what they need, they get what they need, and we all move on.
But then there are the people who seem to be under the distinct impression that their issues with mobility should be considered some sort of emergency for everyone else around them, all the time. And there is one woman like this who particularly irks me.
Just before every performance she insistently questions anyone in the vicinity about what arrangements will be made for her during the concert. I generally sit near her during rehearsals, so inevitably I’m within earshot when she starts asking these questions during dress rehearsal. I guess I generally make the mistake of actually looking up when I hear someone speak, even if it’s not directed at me, specifically. I assume that will make me a good and attentive mother. In this situation, however, it just means that somehow I seem to always be the person answering this question. Back when I didn’t know who coordinated this sort of thing, I would tell her to ask someone in the executive of the choir. Now that I know who takes care of this sort of thing, I tell her to speak to that person. But, like she’s suddenly gone deaf, she just keeps repeating the question using different wording. I suppose she expects someone else to go and get the information and bring it back to her; but I figure she has mobility issues, she’s not immobile. I’ve also been privy to one of her insistent e-mails, so I know she has that weapon in her arsenal of annoyance as well. And that doesn’t require much movement at all.
But here’s the kicker. She should know this stuff by now. She’s been a member of the choir for at least the three years that I’ve been a member, if not longer. Yet, somehow, as each performance approaches, all memory of the fact that in the past the arrangements always worked out, flees her mind. We have a volunteer in the choir charged with the very task of ensuring that all of our venues are accessible and she does a very good job of relaying that information to the members who need to know. But that’s never enough for this woman. I’ve known her to ask months in advance of a concert not even about the accessibility of a venue, but the specifics of how she will enter the building. Sometimes, at this point, the volunteer in charge of this hasn’t even seen the venue yet. And you’d think, with the way she goes on that someone doesn’t help her into choir rehearsal every week. You’d think that she’s been frequently left out in the parking lot for the duration of a practice while everyone shrugged and said, “Sorry, can’t help you out.”
I have to assume that her issues with mobility are a pain in the ass. She spends a great deal of time having to depend on people for things that the majority of us can do without too much thought and certainly with no help. But she’s clearly abdicated what personal responsibility she could have in at least one other area of her life. This bugs the hell out of me, because everyone around her pretty much pitches in when they need to and often when they don’t want to. But it’s like she has this expectation that everyone should have, not just a willingness to help, but a burning desire to be at her beck and call. And that is just not the reality. The fact is that a number of people find her so maddening that the last thing they want to do is help and do so only because it would be socially gauche not to do so.
Lest you believe that I think this attitude is specific to someone with mobility issues, let me assure you that I don’t believe this at all. It’s not this woman’s disability that bothers me—it’s her sense of entitlement and the resulting douchiness towards other people. And I know plenty of able-bodied people who are just like this. People for whom, the use of the brain rolling about in their skulls, seems to be painful or unwanted. People for whom the idea of doing things for themselves only causes them to ask: “Why would I, when someone else can do it for me?”
I see it at work all the time—this complete refusal to think through a problem before asking someone else for the answer. Apart from my senior managers, everyone in my office has a habit of buzzing me with questions that only require the exercise of some common sense to answer. But I guess it’s easier to use my common sense. Less strain, I suppose. And I get that it’s easier, but I often find solving a complex problem vaguely rewarding. Surely I’m not the only person for whom dopamine works that way.
Playing the victim is easy. We all like to do it at least some of the time. I certainly do. I’m a victim of circumstances at work; I’m a victim of my noisy neighbours; I’m a victim of my parents’ failure to teach me certain life lessons; I’m a victim of wealthy scoundrels who have seduced and betrayed me in the past. Maybe I get so annoyed by it when people don’t want to take responsibility for their shit because it hits a little too close to home. But once in a blue moon, I find that just taking the reins and making some decisions and following those decisions with action does feel better than not taking any responsibility at all. And if people are giving me the stinkeye, I’ll probably come to that conclusion even faster. I guess I just wonder what’s going on in the heads of people who are seemingly stinkeye proof. I wonder what makes full time victims act the way they do. So far I’ve concluded it’s that they get away with it—and maybe that’s what bugs me the most.
And on that note–Merry Christmas!