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June 13, 2011

Say What?

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?





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The answer points to other issues in our country; but they all stem from a lack of self discipline.

|| Posted by T F Stern, June 13, 2011 09:54 AM ||

I, too, experience such behavior and it hasn't changed much in my 57 years with one difference. Having been born with orthopedic problems and undergoing many corrective surgeries, I was frequently in leg casts and on crutches for large chunks of the school year. I was tormented by nearly everyone.

As the years went on, I was used as an example of how not to treat the different - everyone should be treated the same. Time does not stop and neither did the evolution of that philosophy. It came to be that treating everyone the same meant treating everyone poorly to the self defeating point that poorly is how most people now wish to be treated as evidenced by the coarsening of our entertainment, the Slut Walks to celebrate the sexualization of young women, the adoption of words like slut and bitch as valid substitutes for woman, lady, and girl.

Disabled no longer is a loss of some ability that may require some help, but a way to collect government money whether claims are real or not. Witness the guy recently who dresses in diapers and is considered disabled. It's disgusting how low we've descended as a nation and as individuals.

|| Posted by Indigo Red, June 13, 2011 01:03 PM ||

Greg, you and your wife have an reservoir of patience and forgiveness (much to your credit). I sit here angry and impatient with those who treated you and your wife in such a manner and frustrated by the reminder I am supposed to be both of those things... patient and forgiving.
There is no satisfactory explanation or excuse for any person addressing another in that way.
If there were any bi-standers who overheard those comments they are culpable and cowardly in not confronting the person who spoke in that manner.
Is is best for all that I was not nearby.

|| Posted by MikeL, June 13, 2011 02:34 PM ||

I am stunned. Not by your story of McDonalds where the man was probably mentally infirm. I am stunned by your report of what happened in the theater. Even though I will agree ahead of time it would be unwise to resort to violence I could not have helped myself. MAYBE...Maybe I would merely call the theater staff and INSIST the jerks be removed. But Your patience exceeds mine.

P.S. I love McDonalds sausage egg McMuffins!!

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, June 13, 2011 04:49 PM ||

A Californicator, no doubt. A lot of them have moved here in the last few decades, more's the pity. Run 'em back to the Left coast, I say, and be done with 'em.

|| Posted by Dick Stanley, June 14, 2011 07:24 AM ||

There is an incredible amount of rudeness lately, or what Scripture calls "the spirit of offense." I am truly sorry that you and your bride were treated in such a fashion. We at our household empathize, as we are not fast walkers and frequently use canes. You are better folks than myself; more importantly, you have class and dignity for others. May God bless you both.

|| Posted by Linda Flemming, June 14, 2011 04:53 PM ||
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