Wheelchair Bingo…Part 2

And we’re back!! If you haven’t read Part 1 of this little epistle please do so now. We’ll just hang out here waiting for y’all to catch up.

Okay, good…everybody has returned. So how’s the how pandemic quarantine thing going for you?? Alright, alright…enough of that for now, but stay tuned. I’ll be addressing the elephant in the room soon. For now it’s time to get back to our list of things that “normal” people say to disabled people. Handicapped. Handicapable. Crippled. Differently abled. To be honest some of the terminology makes me laugh. Citizens of the Manoverse know that political correctness isn’t my thing, which is why I’m able to poke fun at this stuff and not take myself too seriously. So sit back (six feet apart!), don’t touch your face, & enjoy. And for God’s sake wash your hands when you’re finished reading.

It’s all in your head.

No, I’m pretty sure it’s not. And FYI…anyone who says this to a disabled individual with any level of seriousness is not a good person.

You’re an inspiration.

This is where I’m going to get myself in big trouble. Throughout my life I have randomly had people tell me this or something akin to it, and I’m torn. I understand that the polite thing to do is to smile & accept the compliment in the spirit in which it is given. I sincerely appreciate the sentiment, and if I have in fact inspired anyone in any way I’m humbled. I am touched when anyone is astute enough to understand obstacles I face and recognizes little things that I overcome on an almost daily basis. On the other hand, my life is my life, and I don’t consider relatively mundane tasks like getting in & out of my vehicle, going to work, or living independently all that inspirational. My biggest goal in life has never been to stand out from the crowd…it’s been to blend in and be just like everybody else as much as possible. Also, when people pat me on the back for normal & insignificant things it reinforces how average my life is and how I actually haven’t achieved anything worthy of true praise. Perhaps that is just my own special brand of neuroticism, but I’m just being honest.

You seem very happy!!

Looks can be deceiving. I’m not going to go down a dark road here…I want to keep it light & fun. However, the same people who are “inspired” by me don’t really seem all that invested in truly getting to know me. This whole quarantine situation has simply reinforced how lonely I already was, and it kind of ticks me off. At any rate, I’m sure that I’m not the only person in the world who puts on a happy face for social media and hides my melancholy while at work or when out on the town.

Can I have a go??

I have no idea what that means. It sounds British. If anyone can shed some light on the phraseology I’d appreciate it. Until then I probably shouldn’t comment.

I’m only parking here for five minutes.

Yeah, right. I’ve heard that one way too many times. There is a 15 minute loading zone in the parking lot of my apartment building, and the way it is laid out I have a very difficult time backing my truck out when someone is parked there. I’m willing to wait fifteen minutes, but the problem is that people often park in that loading zone for hours, which really gets me revved up. More specific to handicapped parking spots, I generally don’t have an issue, but it seems pretty simple…if you don’t have a permit to utilize one of those spaces just don’t do it. I don’t care what your reasoning may be. Everybody these days seems to be under the mistaken impression that their lives & their problems are more important than anyone else’s, which is just not true. Whatever drama is happening in your life in the moment does not provide a legitimate excuse to park in a handicapped spot even for just five minutes. Don’t do it.

You do realize that sitting is bad for you??

Nooo…really?? That is brand new information!! Okay, seriously…yes, I am aware. I have read the stories about how sitting around too much shortens one’s life span. Trust me…I get it. Exercise…or lack thereof…has been an issue for me my entire life. Believe me when I say that I’d love to be buff & sexy for the ladies, and I’d prefer to be skinnier & healthier for my own well-being. I’ll admit that part of the problem is my own laziness & procrastination, but it is also undeniable that most gyms & health clubs really don’t have much to offer for folks in my situation. As far as sitting goes, well…what other choice do I have?? I guess I’d just say that it’s something I’m aware of but don’t dwell on or else I’d drive myself nuts.

I bet you get great parking.

Yeah, I guess. And that great parking space is totally worth all the other things I have to endure on a daily basis throughout my entire life!!

You’re too young to be in a wheelchair.

Well, I got my first wheelchair when I was about four years old, so nope…not accurate at all. But thanks…I think.

Do you have a license to drive that thing??

There are people in the world who erroneously believe they are funny, and this is one of the things those kinds of people like to say to my wheelchair-bound comrades. It stops being funny after one hears it for about the thousandth time. I’m not offended as a disabled person, but as a guy who prides himself on a keen sense of humor I just think people can do better.

Wow, I’d hate to be you.

Okay, that’s cool. To be honest sometimes I hate being me too lol.

You poor thing.

Oftentimes said with an accompanying “bless your heart”. People mean well, and most of the time they’re completely oblivious to how condescending they can be.

I can’t believe he’s married.

I’m not married, but I’d like to be…atleast I think I would. Any reservations I have about marriage have very little to do with my disability. Folks in wheelchairs do get hitched. It’s not like there’s some sort of law against it. I would like to think that if I’m ever blessed enough to find a wife it won’t be that unbelievable to anyone.

You don’t need that if you can walk.

In my particular situation I do need my wheelchair all the time. I cannot walk at all. However, there are people with health problems that may be able to walk occasionally and only use a wheelchair sometimes. I think the lesson here is to be careful when expressing opinions about something that you really know nothing about. Everyone’s situation is different, and it’s not up to anyone else to judge.

You’re dating?? Good for you.

I suppose it’s kind of the same deal as the married thing. Would I like to be dating someone?? Sure (especially nowadays), but I do have standards. And I’d hope that if/when I do find me a gal it won’t be shocking to anyone just because I’m disabled. Now, if you want to be surprised for other reasons that a woman would go out with me that may be a valid point.

Are you sure you can handle this job??

I’ve never had a potential employer ask me that in an interview, and my suspicion is that most would be too smart to do so. It’s much more likely that they’d just decide for themselves and not offer the job at all, with the disabled interviewee never knowing for sure why they didn’t get hired. Having said that, I’d like to believe that I wouldn’t apply for a job that I didn’t think I could handle, especially due to physical limitations. I’m not delusional…I am aware that there are some things that just aren’t possible for me to do, and I’m okay with that.

You have kids?? How’d you manage that??

At this point in my life it is highly unlikely that I’ll ever father children. If I do I assume I’ll do it the old-fashioned way. I haven’t done much research on the topic, but I suppose it may be more difficult for people with certain disabilities to have children, and I assume there are ways around those barriers. That’s kind of what we do…spend our lives encountering roadblocks and figuring out a way to circumvent them. The point being that if a handicapped person does have children they have obviously dealt with the issue in some way, and perhaps you don’t need to know the details.

I guess my life isn’t so bad after all.

Well gee…thanks. If you want to compare my life to yours and utter such a statement to yourself in relief then be my guest. But I cannot fathom anyone being so obtuse as to actually say it to a handicapped person’s face.

You’re this way for a reason. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Here we go. Okay okay…I do believe in the old adage that “God don’t make no junk”, and I think many of us occasionally ask ourselves why we are here and what purpose our life serves. That’s just human nature. However, ask a thousand disabled people if they’ve figured out why they’re forced to spend their lives with whatever malady they suffer from and I bet you’ll get very few who’ll say they understand the reason. That doesn’t mean that we curl up in the fetal position in a corner wailing “Why ME?!?!??” as if Tonya Harding came after us with a billy club, just that we suck it up and live our lives without dwelling on such matters.

I had to use a wheelchair once so I understand.

I get it. It’s cool that you’re trying to be empathetic, and I’m not going to be upset or call you out. I’ll just smile & nod politely as usual. But one thing my Dad has taught me for as long as I can remember is that no one…not even my closest family members…can truly understand things I deal with on a daily basis. What I’ve learned over the years though is that that is a universal truth that extends to everyone, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. No one’s life is perfect. Everybody has stuff that they’re struggling with. We all have problems, and we’re all just trying to do the best we can and be happy.

It’s so good to see you out & about!!

I’d love for someone to say that to me right now!! However, under normal (non-pandemic) circumstances a person’s astonishment that I actually left my house is somewhat patronizing.

Oh you got a degree & have a job?? Good for you. That must have been difficult.

Actually, college was pretty easy for me. I spent a large portion of it intoxicated and still graduated. And my current job is the easiest I’ve ever had. It’s funny how a short little phrase like “good for you” can oftentimes be so insulting. It’s usually a tone of voice thing, so just be aware of that.

Is someone here with you?? Why are you alone??

I spend most of my life alone, and generally I’m okay with that. I go out to eat alone. I go to the movies alone. I go shopping alone. Sometimes a buddy of mine goes out & about with me, and I think he’s under the impression that he’s helping me, but the truth is that I was likely going where I was going with or without him and my perspective is that I’m helping him by getting him out of our apartment building. Being independent has been very important to me throughout my adult life, and to the extent that I feel lonely it is only due to a need for intelligent conversation, shared joy, & friendly human interaction…not because I physically need someone to be with me to help me live my life.

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