The space between the cash desk and the windows is uncomfortably small. I can’t wait at the end while groceries are packed because I feel that I’m in the way. So as I usually do, I head out to the lobby and wait there for the rest to join me. When they do, there is chatter, lots of chatter, I’ve been apart from the group for less than five minutes but there’s lots to say.
I leave with them. I am surrounded by two kids and a husband. I turn the chair around and this unexpected turn catches the attention of a young woman outside the building. She looks at me with a bit of confusion. Joe and the kids are with me but behind me now, closely behind. I am saying, “make sure that I get down safely, it’s a bit steep, and watch for cars I don’t want to be smushed by someone racing by in the parking lot.
I don’t notice that the young woman is approaching me with real fear in her eyes. I realize that she thinks I’m talking to her. That I just randomly ordered her to assist me. I look at her and said, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the people here I am with.” The relief on her face was immediately evident. She rushed back to where she had been standing.
Part of a group, but seen as solitary.
Part of a family, but seen as alone.
I am so astonishingly visible yet those who are with me are inconceivably invisible. Because disabled people live desperately lonely lives.
And some do.
But loneliness isn’t the ‘hallmark’ of disability.
Non disabled people are often isolated too.
But this inability that so many people have in seeing me as a part of a social unit instead of apart from a social unit always worries me. It feeds a fear of disability and being disabled that goes to the heart of the prejudice against us.
But this time, because she looked so tense and so shocked to be ordered into assistance and since the transition of her face from ‘oh my God’ to ‘oh thank God’ was so quick to be comic. I thought it was funny.