I’m starting to realize that, because of the way I walk, some people see me as disabled. Which is weird and something I’m not prepared to get my head around. Three years into this little adventure, I’m still choosing to see it as a temporary glitch. Because denial is always an option. And I’m going to take it for as long as I possibly can.
This view that people have of me was brought home recently when Alan and I went to vote in our provincial election. Because my voter card was sent to our old address, we went to the advance poll to be sure that I could vote.
The woman who greeted us at the door is a bread customer, so when she asked if either of us had any mobility issues that required assistance, she hastened to add, “I have to ask everybody that.”
And I said that no, I didn’t need any help, but I did need to sit down. And then we caught up on how everybody was doing. Which was nice.
Then it was my turn to go in and talk to another woman, who didn’t know me at all. I explained about the change of address, handed over my paperwork and driver’s licence. She looked it all over and gave me a couple of forms to sign. Which I did. All by myself.
Then we got up to move to the voting booth. It’s a cardboard box on a table, which always unsettles me just a little. Like we’re just playing at voting, instead of really voting. As she started to hand me the ballot, she gave me the instructions. “Take this and mark an X… can you make an X…?”
And I assured her that I could and managed, out of politeness, not to remind her that she’d just seen me sign my name, TWICE. And then we blinked at each other a few times until I took the ballot and cast my damn vote.
I told Alan what happened as we drove away and he said, “There’s wine at home.”
Later, a friend, who works in the public service sector, explained that there is training that they have to take on offering assistance to those who need it. And, she said, the training is actually quite good, but some who receive it are, perhaps a little too eager to put it to use.
And I remembered many years ago, when I was 10 or 11, going to the big annual art festival down in Windsor with my Mum and Dad.
I had a hang nail that I kept picking at until it bled. Quite a lot. And because I didn’t want to bleed all over the lovely art, I showed it to my parents.
“Oh, look,” said my mother, “the St. John’s Ambulance are here. Maybe they’ll have a band-aid.” So we went up to their booth.
Where I was immediately surrounded by three volunteers. One took my hand, while another said, “First we need to sterilize the wound site,” and another prepared the bandage. My finger was thoroughly cleansed, packed with gauze and wrapped in surgical tape while my mother murmured, “A simple band-aid will do…”
They were very disappointed that I didn’t require oxygen and if my mother hadn’t hauled me out of there, I would have been sent home with my arm in a sling.
Some good has come out of that rather jarring experience at the voting station, though. Alan and I have a new shorthand for how I’m feeling.
On good days, I say brightly, “I can make an X!”
And on bad days, I shake my head sadly and tell him that I can’t even make an X and he knows that I’m not just sore, but discouraged as well and he reassures me that it’s OK and I will get better.
It’s hard not to make assumptions about people. This whole experience is teaching me to be a lot more careful with everyone I meet.
I hope you’re all enjoying lovely, “I can make an X” days.