Generally speaking, I blog about politics and current events, with a sprinkling of posts on education, history, religion, and culture. What I rarely write about is day to day experiences and encounters with others. Part of this is a privacy thing, and part of it is a desire not to be the sort of grouch who spends his time blogging about how his life sucks or gossiping about others.
But this post is going to be different. I'm going to post about some recent experiences and my reaction to them. Not because I want to complain about others, but more because I believe these experiences highlight a broader phenomenon in our society -- the loss of manners and respect for others.
What is it that has led me to pick up on this topic? A little incident this past weekend while grabbing a quick breakfast . My wife and I had made an emergency run to Walmart before church, and found ourselves with extra time enough to stop in the McDonalds in the lobby. It being breakfast time, we each had a sausage biscuit and hash browns. In other words, we ate what most folks in the restaurant were eating.
An older man on an electric scooter had been ahead of us in line, and had ordered a couple of apple pies. He ate a couple of tables behind us, and was done before us. As he went past us, he muttered something I did not understand -- but which my wife later told me was "You are what you eat." Frankly, he was just the sort of background noise that you tune out in a place like that, so we didn't respond. A few moments later, having refilled his drink, he rolled past us again, passing behind my wife -- but rather than going back to his table (he had finished his apple pies) he circled back around our table, stopped right next to me, pointed at our food and said much more loudly "You are what you eat -- and that makes you two PIGS!" Stunned, I said nothing -- and as he began to roll off, he loudly commented again that my wife and I were "a couple of FAT pigs." Rolling on towards the exit, he passed two more couples eating (one couple black, one Hispanic -- both couples of similar size to us) without saying a word -- whether because of their race or the fact that neither of the other couples included a person in a wheelchair was impossible to determine.
Now I could have cussed the guy out. I could have demanded the old coot go back to my wife and apologize to her. Or I suppose I could have even upended the store-supplied scooter on him and laughed as he struggled to drag himself out from under it. Instead, because I was trying to repair my eyeglasses (the emergency in question) and my wife asked me to let it go, I remained in my seat and said nothing. But it sparked me to reflect on several other incidents that have happened recently.
We've attended several performances in recent weeks at Miller outdoor Theater here in Houston. We've always obtained tickets that allow my wife to sit in her wheelchair, using one of the designated wheelchair slots. Those in the row behind have manhandled her -- grabbing her by the neck and shoulders as they have passed, something they would never have done to an able-bodied person sitting in a regular seat. They have requested that she move her chair so that they can place coolers and picnic totes in her designated wheelchair slot. They've sat kicking the wheels of the wheelchair. They've used the handles on the chair as a place to lean while engaging in conversation with friends. They've made insulting comments of a sort that would never be made about someone in a regular seat, as if her impaired mobility also brought with it impaired hearing or mental infirmity. One particularly arrogant SOB went to an usher demanding that we be relocated because he needed the wheelchair slot in front of him (one of only about two dozen in the entire facility) to be vacant "because I've got long legs" -- and spent the rest of the evening complaining to his companions about "the white bitch in the wheelchair" making him uncomfortable after the usher refused to move us. Apparently being in a wheelchair makes one fair game for abuse.
Of course, this isn't the first time we've dealt with such things. A couple of years back at a professional sporting event, in the days before she needed a wheelchair, one man even suggested to his young son that he kick my wife's cane out from under her so she would fall and the line for the escalator would move faster! While shopping recently, a teenager darted in front of my wife to get into the handicapped stall (the only open one in the bathroom), where she proceeded to engage in a vapid cell phone call with a friend. Nasty comments about my weight or my wife's wheelchair -- "people like that shouldn't be allowed in public" -- are the sort of things we've hear regularly. Such occurrences are frequent enough -- almost -- for us to ignore or tune them out. But not quite.
And they have lead me to wonder -- where are the manners? Where is the respect? Heck, forget social graces-- where is the basic human decency? Why do people think that they can abuse or mistreat people based upon their weight or their disabilities? And why are such things apparently still socially acceptable in a way that such abuse towards minority groups are not?