I almost went after her.
I was sitting on my scooter at the end of the checkout line of a store, minding my own business, when she came up behind me and bent over in front of me, pausing briefly to place her face rather close to mine. She had clenched fists stretched out in front of her, moving them up and down, as if revving a motorcycle. The words she spoke were clear to anyone within ear shot – “VROOM, VROOM!! …..right?”
And then she was on her way, chuckling to herself in a congratulatory way.
She was not someone I knew or someone who knew me, but rather a complete stranger.
I sat there for while, confused, wondering why she had felt the need to say anything at all, but especially that. What would prompt someone to approach a stranger and comment in such a way? Perhaps I was providing her with her day’s entertainment. I shook my head and asked myself what kind of response she might have expected. Laughter? Return sound effects signaling agreement?
I’m usually a good sport, responding to unwanted comments with a smile, a dose of grace and a heart of forgiveness. But caught on a bad day, with not enough sleep and a higher than usual pain level, something in me snapped. I seriously thought about chasing her down and catching the back of her feet with my wheels while responding with “Yep! Vroom, vroom. Take THAT!!” Not wishing to make a scene (or be arrested), it was satisfying enough to imagine it.
When your legs don’t work, they are replaced with wheels. Anyone who needs wheels is likely glad to have them. I am. I hate that I need them, but am grateful for them. They get me around. Because I need them and must use them to move, always, they have become like a part of me. You have feet, I have wheels.
Friends and strangers feel free to comment on my scooter, suggesting it needs racing stripes or flames or flashy hubcaps, as if they have struck upon an ingenious idea and are the first to share it. I’ve heard it before. There are unspoken social boundaries. I know not to comment on your body shape, size or oddities. What causes people to think my leg substitutes are fair game? Wheely??? (really?)
It’s not necessary to go out of your way to be insensitive. Sometimes people don’t know what to say. I get that. But it’s much better to remain silent than to offend. If we are face to face, I appreciate being acknowledged. A simple hello will do. If you feel you must voice an idea; proceed with caution. I’ll likely just grimace. But if I’m having a bad day, you might want to watch your heels!