Move Aside, Already!
[Edited to add these two paragraphs, Sept 2 ’07:] Usually I like to think of myself as a good writer. And usually I am. In fact, I write for a living. But what some people don’t seem to realize is that sometimes even good writers just totally screw it up. As I seem to have, in this case. I wrote this rant mainly as a humor piece. However, judging by the responses people have left, people seem to be missing the humor and only picking up anger — more anger than I was actually feeling when I wrote this piece. Humor, so I understand, is the hardest thing to write: humor is MEANT to be “over the top” — but if you go “over the top” enough then it loses humor and people may end up interpreting what you wrote in ways completely unrelated to what you meant. And that’s what seems to have happened here. I wrote this rant off the cuff and didn’t really re-read it before posting. That’ll teach me: next time I write for humor, but especially a meant-to-be-humorous rant (where it’s much harder to get the tone right), I’ll hold it a while and re-read it later.
I’m leaving this rant in place for now because the deed is already done, but when you read it, please bear in mind that it’s all MEANT to be in a humorous tone (even though I don’t seem to have succeeded with that). And don’t be surprised if you see this post simply disappear later. I’m still deciding whether I should leave this as a monument to one of my writing failures or just quietly pretend this never happened ;-) (In case it wasn’t clear, THAT was meant to be humor, too :-) )
If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you know I’ve been writing a lot about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195, S 1881). But I’m taking a break from that: this post is just going to be a rant.
Deaf people know first-hand that an amazingly large proportion of hearing people are, basically, idiots.
Oh, wait. Am I supposed to be nice and polite and understanding and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, some hearing people aren’t idiots, just ignorant about deafness? Or am I supposed to find a nicer way to say the same thing in a much nicer way? Like, they’re not idiots, they’re just very poor thinkers. So poor at thinking that they wouldn’t know how to do it if you showed them how with pictures and diagrams drawn so simply and so obviously that a three year old child could intuit what to do. Sure, I could be nicer. And usually I try to be. But what’s a proper rant if you don’t get to insult people who, perhaps, DESERVE to be insulted, at least anonymously? A BORING rant, that’s what. As in, a rant that just isn’t any FUN any more! So I’m using the word “idiot,” and so there.
If you’re Deaf (or deaf, HOH, etc.), then you know the hearing people I’m talking about. Probably most of you could share about five or 10 stories to prove my point. And, sure, there are tons of hearing people who are NOT idiots. Who would NEVER do any of the things that aggravate us so much when we meet the people who ARE idiots. And even people who we might label as “idiots” the first time we meet them sometimes actually ARE capable of learning if they just meet enough deaf people often enough to learn. But. Some hearing people still do things that just amaze those of us who know exactly why what they’re doing is so, so, utterly illogical and just WRONG.
Well, guess what? Hearing people don’t have a monopoly on being idiots. Able-bodied people free of mobility impairments can be idiots, too–whether you’re hearing or deaf. (Yup, Deaf idiots, who would have thunk it?)
If you’ve been reading my blog then you’ve probably already guessed that I am Deaf (or sometimes I call myself “deaf,” I feel comfortable either way … just don’t call me “hearing impaired”!). But what you probably didn’t know is that I also have a foot problem that makes it permanently impossible for me to run or jump or otherwise move at a speed above a brisk walk.
Most of the time, I walk without any walking aids. Because on most days, I walk fine without them. But because of my foot problem, I have gone through several periods in the past few years in which I have used either crutches or a cane, often for several weeks at a time. This particularly happens right after Yet Another Foot Injury. But I sometimes reach for my cane if I’m having what I have come to term a “bad foot day” in which my foot has decided to create twinges of pain, or to move more stiffly than usual, or (often) both. I also reach for a cane if I know I’m about to do something that is about to put a great deal of stress on my ankle, such as standing in line for an extremely long time or attending an event at where I know there will be no chairs. (I wish more event organizers, and people who work at places where long lines are commonplace, would give more consideration to people who can walk but who cannot stand for long periods. We’re far more common than people seem to think. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant.)
But on with the rant I STARTED to write.
As a deaf person, I thought I was already familiar with the full range of idiots the world had to offer. But when I first started using crutches (then a cane) some years ago, I suddenly found myself confronted with an entire new constellation of idiots. This was when I discovered that I really only ever knew one variety of idiots–the hearing variety. When I entered the world of the occasionally-walking-impaired, I also entered a world that suddenly contained idiots of the non-mobility-impaired variety.
In particular, I discovered that the temporarily able-bodied masses around me don’t have the first concept of how, properly, to MOVE ASIDE, ALREADY!
See, when you start using some form of mobility aid–whether a wheelchair (manual or electric), a scooter, crutches, a walker, or even just a cane–you NEED MORE ROOM. I mean, this is really not a hard concept, is it, now? You have your body. Which itself requires a certain amount of room just to stand, and more room in order to actually move about. Then you have your mobility aid. Which ALSO requires a certain amount of room just to exist. And still more room in which to be, not merely MOVED, but moved in a way that is actually HELPFUL.
Hint: No, most mobility aid-users are NOT able to move sideways. If you’re using wheels, then wheels just don’t go that way: there’s only FORWARD. Or possibly backwards. Or possibly a curve. But not sideways. And the same goes for most other kinds of mobility aids as well. When I was on crutches–well, there WERE some occasions when I did go sideways because I was forced to. But it’s really not safe or stable. I couldn’t be sure that I would remain upright and uninjured. And I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t slip and slam the full weight of my crutch and my body onto the toes of the idiot who wouldn’t MOVE ASIDE, ALREADY!
Usually it’s safer moving sideways with a cane if you have to, but that’s mostly because, if you’re only using a cane, you’re already more stable than when you really, really needed to be on crutches. But, see, you can no longer USE a cane properly when you’re going sideways, which kind of defeats the POINT.
HINT: It is generally a reasonably safe assumption that pretty much anyone who either is moving while seated or who is walking in some non-standard fashion probably needs a walking (rolling?) path approxiamately as wide as a doorway. And when I say “as wide as a doorway,” I mean one designed to be wide enough to actually accommodate a wheelchair. So not, for example, a typical bathroom door in a typical home which, in many cases, is impossibly narrow. ANY path that is more narrow than your standard wide door is probably just NOT going to be helpful.
Well, where the temporarily able-bodied variety of idiots particularly tend to manifest themselves are in crowds. When I’m on crutches (or with a cane, though it isn’t nearly so precarious then), usually my attempt to navigate a crowd goes something like this:
ME: “Excuse me, please.” (Repeat as needed)
CROWD FULL OF ABLE-BODIED IDIOTS: (After ignoring me the first 10 times, they finally see me, and then politely move aside all of four inches. That’s 10 centimeters to those of you who were raised metric.)
Now, this might serve just fine for an able-bodied person who actually CAN become a four-inch wide person by simply turning sideways and shuffling along as if they were a crab. As you may have surmised by now from my ranting of the past few paragraphs, this is NOT so fine, however, for those of us who use walking aids (even if only part time). Which means the encounter between me and the Crowd Full of Able-Bodied Idiots must continue:
ME: Er, excuse me, please. EXCUSE ME. (Repeat as needed.)
CROWD FULL OF ABLE-BODIED IDIOTS: (Upon finally realizing that, yes, it’s ME again. And, yes, I’m STILL asking them to move. Crowd Full Of etc. looks at me with exasperation. They don’t actually SAY, but you can just see them THINKING, “What on Earth is the MATTER with you, lady? Can’t you see, I’ve already moved a WHOLE FOUR INCHES for you!”)
ME: “Er, could you please move? I’m on crutches, I need more room.” (Thinking to myself, “Come’on people! I’m not a crab! I can’t use these and go sideways!)
CROWD FULL OF ABLE-BODIED IDIOTS: (Look at me blankly as if I’m speaking in gibberish. Or as if I’m being rudely ungrateful for not immediately pouncing upon the oh-so-generous WHOLE FOUR INCHES that they have so kindly granted me already, with cries of genuine joy and tears of ever-lasting gratitude.)
ME: “I mean, I need more room. Could you move, please. I’m trying to get by.” (Thinking to myself, “IDIOTS! MOVE ASIDE, ALREADY!” But I don’t say it because, see, in REAL life, I don’t call people “Idiots.” In REAL life, I try to be nice, and polite, and UNDERSTANDING.)
CROWD FULL OF ABLE-BODIED IDIOTS: (Finally moves aside, but with facial expressions that suggest they think they’re putting up with some huge inconvenience for the Idiot Lady who can’t see that four inches ought to be PLENTY of room to navigate in for ANYONE. After all, it’s certainly plenty of room for THEM.)
(Or, as hinted further above: there were one or two occasions when people STILL just WOULD NOT MOVE ENOUGH, forcing me to squeeze through sideways in fear of my safety. And also at real risk of smashing people’s toes, though frankly I didn’t care about that bit. Not just because they would have deserved it for being Idiots–because, okay, I don’t REALLY think they deserve it–but because if I really had landed a crutch onto someone’s toes, then I might have fallen. In which case *I* would have been the more seriously injured party in the end.)
So, here’s an appeal to all ye able-bodied people who are able to get about, full time, without mobility aids. And this appeal applies whether you’re Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, or fully hearing. PUH-LEEZE, next time somebody with mobility aids asks you to please move aside, don’t join that crowd of gaping Able-Bodied Idiots. Be sure to give them more than just four inches so that they AND THEIR MOBILITY AID actually have room to get by. Safely, that is. In other words: MOVE ASIDE, ALREADY!
The foregoing rant was inspired, in part, by an entirely different rant over at BBC Ouch, where somebody really really just doesn’t like scooters, or the people who use them. I actually sympathize with her rant because it seems there actually are some people using scooters who should have received either some training, or perhaps a brain transplant with an emphasis on Common Sense, before starting to navigate in one. But people using scooters–or crutches, or other aids–are just as often, if not more so, the victims of other people’s failure to think.
If you think rants are fun, then it’s worth following the above link. There are more rants, both from people who dislike scooters and from people who USE scooters, in the comments thread.