People are perplexing. One of my regulars drives a motorized wheelchair. He’s a pleasant looking young chap perhaps in his early thirties, neatly dress. He probably has cerebral palsy because he stammers badly and when he gets off his chair, he walks crookedly and with difficulty.
We’ve had some nice chats since he moved into the area. I thought he was down here in respite care while his parents were away on a cruise, but he seemed to be here for ages and ages – always longing to get home to his own place. Then one day he was very excited because he was off to his hearing. That was when he revealed that he was actually living in the area on a court order. An AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) had been issued against him because he’d been stalking a local girl. Maybe he only told me because he was certain the AVO would be lifted. But it wasn’t and still hasn’t been after 6 months.
I realized that I had assumed that a guy in a wheelchair was harmless. So I’m confronted with my own “ableism”. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous or criminal as the next person.
Also as a good paid up member of the feminist sisterhood, should I be chatting pleasantly to someone who has stalked another woman? Isn’t that just normalizing such behaviour? And yet this is a situation that I know nothing about. Who am I to judge without knowing all the facts? Is it indulging in mob behavior to suddenly start snubbing him?
He has told me he’s sorry for the whole situation and that he just wants to go home. I don’t know. I guess in the end you just treat people as you would like them to treat you. I have a very strong belief in hating the sin, not the sinner. Or maybe I just don’t like confrontation.
My regular customer J, told me early on he was autistic. If so, he’s pretty high functioning as he holds down a good blue collar job. He feels this entitles/requires him to call all women “shelias” and to say “good day mate” at every opportunity. Evidence of an ironic sense of humor? (Not a common autistic trait, I would have thought.) He’s a nice young man apart for that and we often talk. His main autistic trait seems to be that he has no filters. Sometimes I catch the other customers sniggering at things he says. Fortunately there was no one else in the waiting room recently when he startled me by replying to an ordinary “how are you?” with the information that he’d caught a venereal disease. (And no I didn’t ask for details – he probably would have told me and I really didn’t want to hear.)Still he has informed his partner/s very assiduously so it is no business of the station staff to judge.
G, one of our regulars is extremely disabled. He drives his wheelchair with a stick mounted on his head and communicates by tapping out words on a communicator. Were I so disabled, I think I’d be scared to leave the house, but G goes out to his job most days and has a busy social life. Recently I was tasteless enough to tease him about checking out the pretty girls. The way he taped out “I’m engaged” and the dignified way he looked at me as it sounded out, made me feel rather small. Serves me right!
Yesterday he was waiting for a friend at the barriers and we got chatting. Hundreds of people headed for the Soundwave festival were going past and my task was to call out “Soundwave passengers – buses to the left!” at regular intervals.
I was startled to hear a little mechanical voice repeating my words. G had typed the words into his communicator and helpfully kept pressing the button at regular intervals until his friend arrived and he shot off in his wheel chair to greet him.