Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Invisible Man

Wells' The Invisible Man (wikipedia)
Every crip—every person with a visible disability—has had it happen. 

Joe Crip and a group enter a restaurant or a similar public place, a place where every person should be acknowledged, and the person greeting them automatically addresses the people accompanying the crip. Joe Crip is invisible, or treated like a babe-in-arms.

If the situation plays out to the maximum—let's say in a restaurant—it continues right up to order taking and payment.

I've been riding around amongst those kind of folk for more years than I care to remember, but in the last month, I have had it happen to me repeatedly. It's no big deal. As noted, it's familiar. And for my family personally, it's ironic, considering that my wife has a hearing impairment, and if she's with me and the person has the right (meaning wrong) tone of voice, she often doesn't hear. I  might jump in then, but I usually let the snub pass without remark. I'm really not that much interested in talking, and it's one of those little inconveniences of living in Cripville that a person should accept, sometimes for their own mental health. Don't sweat the small stuff is the perfect way to roll through the world.

That said, it is interesting to speculate why we sometimes become invisible. I don't think there is any one complete answer, for everyone is messed up in a different way, but I do think the foundation of the perception that we crips aren't here is fear. 

It goes back to one of the more frequent comments people in wheelchairs hear: Oh, I couldn't live like that. I'd rather shoot myself.

I know I have trouble facing my own fears, and so I don't much begrudge this display of fear by others. Or, let's put it this way: to ignore me when I'm in a group, or to refer to me in the second person, is impolite, disrespectful, and demeaning, but it's your problem. I've decided not to care any longer.

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