I recently found myself in the elevator with someone high up in the organization I work for. We don’t know each other, but we’ve exchanged pleasantries before. A hello, how are you, nice weather — office chat. That day was different, though, because he had a large, complicated sling with a padded wedge holding his arm at a specific angle off of his body. I felt it required acknowledgement but didn’t want to be so bold as to ask what happened. So what did I say?
“Well, that’s a bold new accessory!”
And as I did so, I realized I’m an asshole, too.
I don’t think I offended this gentleman or that I was out of line. I definitely was participating in the sort of jokey, vague comment that I complained about in my last post, though.
I try to greet the awkward/repeated comments of strangers/acquaintances regarding my scooter in the spirit in which they’re offered — a way of acknowledging my situation through friendly small talk. Within 24 hours of my last post a security guard said “I like your Mercedes!” and I replied with a breezy “Just three payments to go!” That’s harder to do when someone makes the same “I wanna go for a joy ride!” joke week after week, but perhaps I should try.
Hidden disabilities are real and should be respected. It’s been ages since my disability was hidden. I bought a cane in 2010 for extra MS Walk support and have been using one regularly for the last six or so years. People might wonder what my disability is, but no one seeing me navigate even a short hallway on foot would mistake me for able-bodied. Lots of people with MS wear it more subtly than I. And while they may be able to cross a room gracefully, they also may suffer from terrible fatigue, pain, or a host of other issues that make handicap bathrooms and parking spaces helpful.
Outside of the MS world, there are many conditions from chronic fatigue syndrome to Fibromyalgia to bum knees that may require special accommodations. I am pretty quick to give the side eye to someone who uses handicapped facilities that isn’t up to my standard of perceived need. I’m a Judgy McJudgerson (on many more issues than just this), and it’s not one of my best qualities.
Bottom line? We should all try to be a little kinder and acknowledge that there is suffering that we cannot see.
(That said, I’m pretty sure Daily Toothbrusher just likes her privacy.)