Tonight the family loaded up in the truck for a “quick trip” to our local wholesale market. We needed the typical bulk items like toilet paper. There are 3 girls in the house, it is shocking to go from bachelor status to a family of four, three being female, and see how much toilet paper gets used. (Editor’s Note: I personally think its a little gross that men don’t use more toilet paper than they do!) I am grateful for bulk paper products. Ink cartridges for the printer (It’s a crime how much they charge for those! I thought gas and milk were expensive). When we make this trip I try to think about the fact that I won’t need to be back for quite some time. Since I do try and be positive I think the sheer number of people that are pushing extra wide carts while paying more attention to their device of choice than their surroundings makes it a good training opportunity for Casper and me.
As we were selecting our last items a mother and son approached and complimented Casper. I thanked them, and since I was leaning against an industrial rack their request to pet and meet Casper was accepted. It turned out the son was not particularly interested so we smiled and moved on. I tried to make a move toward the registers but I was intercepted by another shopper easily in her late seventies, and I reference her age because it is a factor in my patience levels. This sweet looking lady cut off my escape and put her hand down in front of Casper for him sniff. My first reaction was to tell her that the proper way to meet a service team is to ask before petting and respect the “NO PET” patch on his vest. I squashed that, smiled through my teeth and said hello instead. I told myself being kind is a better response. She proceeded to ask me general questions about Casper to which I provided the general answers. I tried again to make an awkward escape but it was no good, she had more for me.
She proceeded to tell me how she would like to get her own dog service certified. She told me all about her ailments and how her dog assists her, and how nice it would be not to leave her dog in the car. (Dogs left in a car are a peeve of mine; don’t get me started.) I told her that it is possible to do that and if her dog helps her she should look into it. She matter-of-factly told me that it costs over four thousand dollars to get a service dog. I said that if her dog provides her a service then getting certified is likely a much simpler and affordable process. I was then told that she already looked into it. I thought it odd, but took my queue and dropped the topic. This lady that I thought was sweet was actually turning out to be rather sour. Each time I thought I had a gracious way to end the conversation I was proven wrong.
About this time Lauri and the girls try and rescue me. Lauri tells her how blessed we are to have such a great dog in our lives. Then she talked about how great her dog was for her as well and regaled us with a story of him saving her life. Nice story. Then she went on to talk about how she knows about dogs and that is why she put her hand down to greet him when she walked up and how so many people don’t understand how big dogs will just attack you. I took this opportunity to explain that he was incredibly gentle and also point out that we did have a “NO PET” patch on his vest.
Not long after this she turns her attention back to Casper and tells him that he should take care of his master and pull my wheel chair. Okay, so there are two things wrong with this statement. The first, is that for me I consider Casper a partner, not simply a subordinate to a master. The second, I don’t have a wheelchair, there was no wheelchair anywhere in sight, and I don’t know how she thought it appropriate to make that assumption. Let me be clear, I have no problem with those who need a chair and I’m sure that if I do need a chair someday I will rock that too, but I happen to take pride in the effort I put forth to keep me walking over rolling.
If this were not enough ignorance for one encounter there was more. Oh yes! More. This wonderful human being then directed a statement my way. She said “You don’t work”. This was not phrased in the form of a question, it was a statement. At this point I couldn’t keep the puzzled look from my face. With a decidedly, just sucked a lemon look, I told her, Yes. I,Do! She then proceeded to congratulate me. Uh, thanks?! Oh, good, she says. So many people like you, who are mentally disabled,. just stay home and drain the system rather than getting a job. I have never been called mentally disabled, at least to my face. (I really wanted to challenge her metal capacities, but I chose to smile and nod.) This was the point that I HAD to get out. I found that I have a limit to how many times I can be offended in a five minute conversation.
I questioned whether to post this or not. (Editor’s Note: If he didn’t I would have!) I decided I would share in the effort of awareness. I will take this experience as a lesson in patience and kindness. I ask that you, my dear friends, take from this what you will but always remember to be kind and thoughtful in all your interactions…even if you want to run someone over with your cart.