Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Revolutionary Support

I don't know if she was his mother or his staff - but in this case, all that matters is what she did and how she did it. I had come into a waiting room, needing to have a check in with a specialist, and waited until they moved a couple chairs so I could place my wheelchair out of the way. Waiting rooms nearly never leave spaces for wheelchair parking. I noticed right away a fellow with a significant disability sitting, also in a chair, beside a woman old enough to be his mother. She looked very prim, he just looked bored. She was reading a book she'd brought along, he just looked bored.


We played 'waiting room lottery' and everyone would look a bit crushed when someone else's name was called out. We all watched with longing as they got to move up a rung from 'waiting room hell' to 'in the specialist office hell'. Then, suddenly, the receptionist got up and went over to the man in the other wheelchair and said, in a sing song kind of voice, "it's your turn now, sweety." He looked at her and I noticed that when he did his lips moved in a half smile. The prim woman with him, put her book down, and said to him, as if he'd made a comment, "Oh, I see, would you like me to tell her what that look means?" She looked at him for a moment more, I saw no discernible change in his face. "Oh, OK," she said, as if he'd said something, "I'll get your board."


She reached into the bag at the back of his chair and brought out a small board. I could see when she opened it that it was a communication board of the kind with pictures and words underneath. She held it flat, in front of him. The receptionist looked annoyed that this was taking so long but she knew we were all watching now and she wanted to present herself carefully to us all. He took only a couple of seconds to point to a large picture up on the right corner. It looked as if it was prominently placed because it was used often.


The receptionist said, "What does that say?"


The elderly woman looked at the fellow with her and said, "Would you like me to read it to her?" Again, she looked carefully at his face, "OK, then."


She turned to the woman and said, "It says, 'Please don't speak to me like I'm a fucking puppy, respect me as a man."


The receptionist was flustered, stumbled out an apology and suggested they go to their appointment. I couldn't hear much more because of the sound of cheering in my own head.

27 comments:

Tamara said...

Yes, I know it's trite and overused, but OMG! I love them!

Kris S. said...

LOVE THIS!!

Jim T. said...

The only thing better than reading that story would be actually seeing it happen. Thanks Dave, this one gets posted in the staff room.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great story to start my day! -L

Anonymous said...

Made my day!!

Laura said...

hahahahahahahahahahahahaha First good for him. I hate when people do that to friends of mine that can not speak secondly. I'm sad I wasn't there to see it. I'd have loved to have a conversation with this man.

tekeal said...

fucking amazing. thank you!

Princeton Posse said...

Great Story. I wish I had one of those boards sometimes!

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...

All the win!

Jill Allen said...

I love this post on two levels. 1: the description of the waiting room hells. I can relate. And the man with the much used button on his communication board that said "FUCK" A lot of the time, people think ppl with disabilities don't swear.

Deb said...

WONDERFUL! Absolutely *wonderful*!

Maggie said...

Revolutionary support, indeed! And somebody who actually wrote down what he laboriously communicated at some prior time, swearing and all!

I totally get the cheering in your head. I might have cheered out loud, except for not wanting to embarrass the man with the communication board.

Axel Kussmann said...

Maybe I shouldn't be laughing, but the picture you painted made the f-bomb simply priceless.

Anonymous said...

Yee-hah!

Down Wit Dat said...

Fucking A! *fist in the air*

Celine said...

That. Is. Awesome.

We've been doing staff training sessions all week and we've talked about situations just like this one - that didn't end quite as dramatically.

We'll be adding your story to our list of things to talk about. I'm sure it will generate a great discussion.

Crystal Rhew Staley said...

Yes Yes Yes!

Jayne wales said...

Just plain great

B. said...

I'm with what everyone here has said so far... and thanks. I shall think of this the nest time I'm in a specialist waiting room.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Mom did pretty well too. asking and not assuming what she should do. She raised a strong man.
Sharon

Penny L. Richards said...

Happy that I read this on Ed Roberts Day. Seems appropriate indeed!

Anonymous said...

I love this, Thank you! Oh, I am going to teach my kiddo some of those words and add it to her board!

Jojo said...

I've been thinking about this well written post for a day now, and I guess I'm about to go against the flow and I'm a bit nervous. The post presents an excellent example of how things don't work for people with disabilities. It's also an example of how much frustration and anger can build in people who feel placed on the outside by those on the inside.
Yet I can't help thinking about the receptionist. In a blog that encourages respectful discourse and respectful language, well I dunno.
Why did the receptionist speak the way she did? She assumed the man wanted to be treated like a puppy that he would wag his proverbial tail. Would we label her act stupid, dumb? Is okay to use words that often demean people with intellectual disabilities? Should we label her act ignorance? If so ignorance should be met with education...perhaps she had done this multiple times to this man till he had had it! Do we think this poor man has suffered enough to want or need our encouragement? Are we being just as condescending as the receptionist making our own assumptions?
Did she have good intentions? If good intentions pave the road to hell what about our good intentions? Are we just left with evil intentions?
The system needs to change and it needs to change now. It needs to be blown up and started over. We need a world that respects and has place for all people. Except for people that are rude and condescending and mean and inconsiderate they can go! Who are those people? Receptionists the low underpaid person in a medical office?
Mr. Hingsburger in many of your previous posts you wondered what a good person is? Is it good to feel such anger you asked? Maybe I'm too timid for revolution. It's good to speak your mind, but sometimes its good to have a friend who saves you from your less generous impulses.
Perhaps I just like posts about you because I have more information about you to make judgments about people actions.
Was the point of the story really about the older woman so willing simply to be a vessel for the man's thoughts and speech? We think she agrees with the man otherwise why would she go along. maybe she doesn't agree she's just that good an advocate that she leaves her own opinions out? Is that what supporting someone is just becoming an empty vessel?
You really made me think...maybe too much. I really enjoy your blog and hope you keep writing. Thanks.

theknapper said...

Brilliant!!!!

James W said...

It,s 20 yes since I use to support a few young guys that had to use wheelchairs. What they would always experience in public situations was the person would look at me and ask questions ,I would always say you
Need to ask him I can,t tell you what he thinks. So 20 years latter its still happening. I always think they see a chair and the persons voice goes up and baby talk follows. I think that fellow has had so many years of this he just uses blunt talk to get peoples attention. I am pretty sure that woman learned a lesson ,hard as it was it needs to happen!

wendy said...

Absolutly perfect! So glad the message didn't get sanatized!

Southern Slav said...

What do we all do to try and prevent this type of incident from happening? Clearly it was a first time experience for the receptionist.