I Was Only Trying To Help You, You Jerk!
As of this writing I have been in a wheelchair for twenty-seven years. During that time I have been offered assistance of various kinds from kind strangers, but I have in most cases politely declined their help. My philosophy is that if I let everyone help me do everything, I won’t learn how to do anything on my own. I would have to depend on other people to do things for me. Sometimes it takes a lot of struggle on my part to learn how to do something from my wheelchair, but if I keep at it and don’t let anyone do it for me, then I have gained yet another ability, and that has enormous benefit for my practical as well as my emotional existence.
There is a certain belligerence to this idea, but it has served me well over the years since I first paralysed myself, and instead of being a helpless cripple being pushed around in my wheelchair with a pitiful look on my face, I am self-propelled, fairly self-sufficient, and very active, even if I don’t always look as though I am having a really good time.
I live. Just like you. That’s me
There have been a few cases where I have been offered help by able-bodied people because I am in a wheelchair, and when I have politely declined, the person offering me assistance has actually taken offence and gotten angry with me. And when they do, this sort of person feels compelled to express this anger.
This has happened on more than one occasion. Most common is the helpful driver of a car, who sees me waiting at the corner so that I can cross the street. I don’t mind waiting to cross the street anymore than anyone else, and unless there is a big line of cars behind them it’s no problem for me to wait for one of these helpful drivers to go past. In fact, if they are the only car, it’s actually kind of silly for them to stop to let me cross when all that they would have to do would be to continue on so that I could cross in one or two seconds behind them. Some of these helpful drivers do not agree with this idea.
Here’s what happens…I am waiting at the corner. A car comes along, and I wait for him to pass (it’s always a dude that does this). He stops and waits for me to cross. There are no cars behind him. All he has to do is drive past and I am good to go. Instead, he waits for me to take advantage of his generosity. When this happens, I studiously look the other way so that I don’t have to acknowledge or respond to him trying to wave me across. I don’t need or want this “favor”. I have found that if I look the other way that usually they’ll decide that maybe I am not waiting to cross the street and am in fact waiting for something else and they will drive off.
It’s not that I am trying to be rude, it’s just that I don’t like crossing the street in front of a car unless I have to. If I take advantage of this helpful person’s generosity, then that means that I have to cross the street while he waits for me to do so, and the fact that this dude is sitting there waiting puts all kinds of pressure on me.
Come on, man, I am only trying to go to the store. Just go past and I can go.
This seems to anger some of these guys, and I have had them start honking their horn at me. As if to say, “Come on, accept my favor, asshole!” When I have been honked at, it annoys me and I have on those occasions asked the guy, “What, you’re HONKING at me?”
At which point they have screeched off, yelling out the window, “I was just trying to help you, you jerk!
I try not to let it bug me, but it does. If you are an able-bodied person, imagine how you would feel if someone acted like that toward you. I think it would bother most people to have some stranger in a car bossing them across the street, and then getting a big attitude about it if they didn’t comply.
That’s the exception rather than the rule, however, and most people graciously accept it when I politely decline their assistance, with a “No thank you, I’ve got it”, and even when I get honked at it’s only slightly annoying.
But then I had a little encounter with a guy at the supermarket the other day that went way past “annoying” on the dial.
Here’s what happened…
I had done my daily shop (I can carry a lot in my rucksack and a Primark bag that I hang off the back of my chair, but I still find that I need to make a store run on a daily basis), and I was using the self-checkout till. I almost always do this instead of using the manned tills. I know that this jeopardizes the jobs of the people who man the manned tills, but here in the UK, the supermarkets don’t employ baggers as they do in the US, which means that the customer is expected to bag their own groceries as fast as the checker can check them.
This is really stressful for me, since I need to pack my bags a certain way so that I am not loaded too heavy in the front (rucksack) or the back (Primark bag) which would create a condition of unbalance, which can be dangerous in a wheelchair. It’s hard to keep up with the boop-boop-boop of the checker, and most times they’re done checking my groceries while I am still frantically trying to bag everything. So I have to pay the checker and finish bagging while the next customer behind me is standing there with all of their groceries on the belt, waiting for me to hurry up and get out of the way.
It puts a lot of pressure on me. Like I said about the car thing, I get stressed when people are waiting for me to do something. So I use the self check, where even if there is a queue/line of people waiting for the next available self-check till, at least they’re not waiting for my till, or for me specifically.
On the day in question, I had about a dozen items, and I’d rung then up and was about to swipe my loyalty card in the card reader when I noticed some motion close to me by my right shoulder. I looked over, and the first thing I saw was a muscular, tattooed arm putting my groceries into one of the bags on the little bag hanger that they have on all of the self tills. In other words a stranger was bagging my groceries.
I turned and told him, “No thanks, mate. I got it.”
I expected him to stop but I was wrong. Mr Helpful with the muscular tattooed arms kept bagging my groceries. At this point I stopped trying to swipe my loyalty card and turned in my chair to face this guy. I told him, “No, seriously man…I GOT it.”
He stopped, held up his hands as if to say, “Ok”, but what came out of his mouth was, “You don’t have to be a jerk about it!” and he walked back over to where his wife was waiting with their baby in a pram at the manned-till and got in the queue behind her.
I was a little annoyed at this point, but then I heard him say to his wife in a loud voice, “What a fucking jerk!”
That annoyed me a lot. I turned in my wheelchair to face this guy so that I could address the problem he seemed to be having with me, and I got a good look him. He was a short man in his early thirties, maybe 5’6” with spiky hair, wearing a t-shirt, shorts and full sleeves (tattoos) on both arms. He looked “scrappy”, and in fact if I saw him in a bar, I would do my drinking at the other end of the room. I have done enough drinking in bars with enough different types of people to be familiar with his type, and unless one wants to get into a scrap, his type is best avoided in the pubs. He’s the kind of guy I would call a “walking fight”.
This is a somewhat abbreviated version of our exchange:
Me: “Excuse me?”
Him: “I was just trying to help you, you jerk!”
Me: “What, because I’m in a wheelchair I look like I need help? You feel sorry for me?”
Me: “Then why did you do it? What made you think I need help?”
At this point his wife, a little brunette, also in her early thirties stepped into the conversation.
Her: “He was just trying to be nice!”
Now I know better than to address a man’s wife or girlfriend when they feel compelled to get involved in an argument between myself and their husband or boyfriend, because if I do, from that point on it becomes a case of me arguing with the man’s girlfriend or wife, and suddenly chivalry kicks in. It “complicates” things and the argument can very quickly escalate into a physical fight at that point. Wheelchair or no, I was pretty sure that if I got into it with Mr. Scrappy’s wife, he would lose control and swiping my loyalty card would definitely not be the next thing that happened to me.
He’d been standing behind his wife up to that point, but as soon as she got involved he stepped back out of line and got up on the balls of his feet and told me, “Yeah man, you didn’t have to be rude about it!”
I avoided looking at Ms. Scrappy and told him, “Dude, what you did was rude. Next time, mind your own business.” At which point he put his hands back up and told me “Ok, I’m done with you!”
I let it go at that point. There was no point in taking it any further, and I tried to just get on with what I had been doing, but it really got to me, and in fact I was shaking with rage so badly that it took me three tries to swipe my loyalty card in the card reader.
Imagine how you’d feel if some stranger came up and started getting their hands all over your food, and when you told them no thanks, they kept doing it, and when you insisted, they insulted you.
As if you’re the jerk.