You have to sit with THOSE people

Saw an interesting thing on the train coming home last night.

This blind gentleman was walking down the aisle, which is nothing really unusual. A lady was behind him urging (and a little more) him onward.

“There a group of four seats ahead”

“Is that handicapped seating? I don’t want to sit in the handicap seats.”

“Just keep going, there’s no one in front of you. The four seater is just ahead”

“Isn’t there a seat here? I don’t want to sit in the handicap seats”

“It’s right up ahead, just keep going”

They were just passing the seat I was in. I said “There’s an empty seat right here next to me if you want it.”

The blind man stopped. So help me, the busy-body behind him was actually trying to push him forward. Not a huge shove, but a definite nudge. And she gave me the Glare of Death. :eek:

The man then moved to the seat next to me over the protests of the woman, put his luggage up on the overhead rack, and sat down. Ms. Busy-body got nudged along by the traffic behind her and she wound up sitting in the “yield this seat to the handicapped” section.

Well, the man, Dennis, and I had a very pleasent conversation between Chicago, Illinois and Hammond, Indiana. Seems he is an extensive traveler, living in California and Honolulu more or less simultaneously, travelling to Europe and Asia… My own travels are not quite so extensive, but it’s not necessarially the size of the trip that counts.

Anyhow, I swear to god every time a word like “see” or “sight” or “look” or a color came up she cringed. She was busy doing the exaggerated mouthing of words things which, near as I could tell was something along the lines of “don’t say that, you’ll upset him”. All of which I cheerfully ignored.

Really, when I though about it, it was mind-boggling. Does she somehow think that is possible to insulate someone blind from all references to sight, light, and color? :rolleyes: C’mon, even someone blind from birth has got to be aware they are missing something that most other people perceive. I figured if I did say something offensive he’d let me know. Otherwise, I was going to talk to him just like he was anyone else.

And why her assumption that Dennis would either want or be required to sit in the handicapped seats? His ass isn’t handicapped! It can sit in a normal seat. Maybe he wanted to leave it for someone who really needs it, like the one-legged gentleman who rides the train and prefers those seats because he needs room for his crutches. Or someone in a wheelchair. Because that’s what THOSE seats are for - someone who has difficultly with the normal seating on the train. Which, to my mind, would also include the obese, the pregnant, and the frail elderly.

And why this need for her to regluate his behavior? Was it some need to shuffle the less-than-perfect off to gimp ghetto seats? (In which case, I think it highly appropriate she sat there herself). Was she going for “good-deed” points with God - “Look, I was an asshole to a blind man - how many points is that worth?”

Giving aid to this gentleman really consisted of only a few things:

  1. Telling him where empty seats were
  2. Assuring him he had the correct ticket for the ride in his hand
  3. Telling him his station was coming up (which the PA announcement does)
  4. Telling him which side of the train the doors opened at that stop

It did NOT include forcing him to sit where he didn’t want to, shoving him, or censoring the speech of those around him.

I wasn’t really pissed off at the time - I was, after all, having a very nice conversation with an interesting and well-traveled human being - but afterward this woman’s behavior started to eat at me.

Was she his nurse or something? Or just some random stranger trying to “help”?

Broomstick, I don’t know what it is about people that makes them want to segregate those that are physically handicapped. Is it the reminder that “there but for the grace of God go I”? Is it the need to puff oneself up by thinking “Well, at least I am better than those people”?

If I might give a promo for a place that doesn’t do this I’d like to tell you about a church I once visited several times, in Lansing Michigan, Grace Lutheran. Now I know that most public places say “handicapped accessible” But these folks really went the extra mile. They had all the usual things, hearing aids, large print hymnals, bathrooms, and so on. But there was also an elevator that opened directly into the sanctuary, for the convenience of those with difficulty walking or in wheelchairs. And parts of several pews had been cut out, so that those in whellchairs could “fit in” and not feel like they were blocking an aisle. The whole altar had been moved out from its original place against the wall, and the altar rail was space far enough from it that someone in a chair could get inside it. Thus even those in a chair could be an assisting minister. And of course there was a ramp top the slightly elevated altar area. Great place.

You mean you actually sat next to a blind man? And you didn’t catch blindness? I thought that was what the disabled seats were for - so none of the able-bodied people catch disabilities. And so the poor, helpless cripples can be among their own kind and so not feel so terribly malformed in the travelling sea of healthy, perfect people.

Well, props to you for being clueful enough to “see” (heh) what was going on and offer the guy a seat in the Real Live Grownups Section. :smiley:

OTOH, as I have an overactive imagination, I can imagine a scenario in which the Blind Guy is really Hannibal Lecter, and the woman is Clarice, and after many years together, she knows from sad experience that it’s really best if he sits by himself…

some people tend to be so rude to the handicapped

Ok, that just cracked me up. :slight_smile:

Broomstick - were they together? Or was she just some obnoxious busybody?

Oh well - it seems that either way, the fella jumped at the chance to sit next to a normal person, rather than theharpy he got on the train with.

It sounds to me like the blind guy was just as normal as everyone else on the train, except for the busybody.

Ever had a conversation with someone who had a big zit on the end of their nose? Couldn’t take your eyes off it right?

Unfortunately some people have such a severe over-sensitivity to any form of disability in others that it clouds their judgement about how to deal with it and can’t “just act naturally”. Worse still, they’re so freaked out that they can’t believe anybody else could be relaxed about it either. I’ve seen parents apologising for their (utterly harmless) disabled kids, and stumbling through a conversation with disabled adults, editing their language in a bizarre way to “avoid giving offence”.

Sure it must’ve been exasperating for the blind guy having to put up with this woman, but I’d say it would be decent to cut her some slack too - she seems to be the one who was suffering, even if it was her own fault.

Let’s be grateful you and I don’t have “unorthodox-person-unleashed-phobia”.

Since when are zits a disability?

Random stranger.

I confess I had to re-read your post - I have no clue what about “blind” would imply the presence of a “nurse”. It certainly never crossed my mind on the train that that could even be a possibility.

Hell, I’d describe the guy as able-bodied. Blind, but physically in good shape.

My eyesight is pretty shitty (although correctable to 20/20) so perhaps I’m innoculated against actual blindess.

…mmmm… Nope. I’m not going to cut her slack.

Should I “cut some slack” for a KKK guy who doesn’t want to deal with blacks, Asians, Catholics, or Jews? Should I cut some slack for male chauvanist pigs who think women are but a notch above breeding stock and draft animals? Maybe I should cut some slack for Osama bin Ladin, who has some “issues” with the USA?

Nope. I don’t “cut some slack” for bigots. Even if they’re suffering.

You know, Broomstick, I think you’re being a bit too harsh on the woman. I just don’t understand why the blind man had to inflict himself on all of the able-bodied commuters taking the train.

He should have driven himself home like any considerate disabled person would have done.

Broomstick wrote: Nope. I don’t “cut some slack” for bigots.

Bigots? In what way was she bigoted? Obviously she was wrong, but you admitted that at the time you weren’t pissed off, so why try to compare her to the KKK now?

It’s a pity you weren’t able to have this conversation with her at the time, because she clearly needed educating, but the last couple of paragraphs of your last post are just offensive and unnecessary. What does slamming a stranger behind her back achieve?

You would do more good by educating the ignorant than by calling them names.

When you’re a teenager. YMMV.

OK, let me tell you a true story about something that happened to me a number of years ago.

Where I went to school there were several hospitals and residential centres for people with various mental and physical handicaps. One time I was walking home with Mike, a guy from my school. As we stopped at the roadside waiting for a break in traffic a man ran towards us screaming incoherently (it was obvious he was from the nearby residential centre). Mike was terrified that the guy was going to hurt us and backed away. I stayed put.

The guy stopped dead a couple of yards from me and went silent, just staring. I said “Hi” and stuck my hand out; the guy said “Hi” back and shook my hand. We had a short conversation and he wandered off. Mike was astonished I hadn’t been scared of the guy (he used a less polite word) so I explained why I hadn’t been scared, that the guy probably didn’t realise his behaviour might cause alarm etc. After I’d explained all I knew, Mike seemed to get it. FWIW I found out that he had taken a temporary job working at another residential centre for handicapped people a few years later. If I’d just waited until I’d got home and called Mike a bigot behind his back he’d still be scared of people with epilepsy and Down’s Syndrome etc. and would still be calling them names.

This is not an isolated case.

Naturally I appreciate that blindness is less likely to generate fear in the ignorant than epilepsy might, but I’m guessing that this woman’s inappropriate behaviour was down to her ignorance of blindness, an exaggerated idea of the practical problems it poses and, admittedly, an unpleasant way of illustrating her ignorance. She’s going to stay that way as long as she only meets people like you, so I hope she meets somebody with enough sensitivity to fill in the details for her. My guess is that Dennis would appreciate that too.

I am sure she was just trying to be nice, considerate and helpful.

Yes, yes…I see that she was wrong, but I don’t think she was being a jerk…it seems as though she was trying to help as best she could.

She DOES need to be educated, but still…I don’t see that her motivation should be called into question. Just the means she was using to assure that Dennis be comfortable. And isn’t it better for her to be OVERLY concerned that he be made comfortable than for her to be totally INDIFFERENT to him being made comfortable?

Some years ago it was pointed out to me by a physically challenged friend of mine that I should NOT say “Do you need help?” Instead, I should say “Would you LIKE help?” Which may sound like a small distinction, but it makes sense…after all, if I am struggling along with ten bags of groceries, I can of course manage…or I wouldn’t be trying to DO it…but if somone offered help I would most likely accept it. Or not, but it is common politeness to offer help instead of assuming “inability to handle”. I don’t think I explained that very well, hope you understand what I mean.

And I commend you for dealing with Dennis as a person instead of as a disability.

You have to sit with THOSE people

[sub]On the Group ‘W’ bench…

well, somebody had to say it [/sub]

Right - which is why he sat beside Broomstick who is normal, as opposed to the harpy, who is not.


Hmm… then you think it was unreasonable for Rosa Parks to sit in the front rather than the back of the bus?

Because segregation is what we’re talking about here. The idea that because a person is blind they must sit in the “special seat” whether they actually need to or not. The disabled are all disabled in different ways, they all have different needs. Looking at a blind person and thinking “oh, they’re disabled, they need to sit in the handicapped seats” is like looking at a black person and thinking they need to sit in the back of the bus.

My view on this is biased because I am married to a disabled man. A man who, by the way, has one of those handicapped placards for our car and truck. There have been times, however, when he chose not to park in a handicapped space and on a couple of those occassions a similar busy-body starting insisting he had to park in the handicapped spot. Uh, no, he does not have to make use of this “perk”, it is an option. When he got the placard it did not somehow become forbidden for him to park in the “normal” parking spaces.

It is the coercion I am objecting to, not the impulse to help. If Ms. Busy-Body had said “There’s a group of four seats ahead” and Dennis said “Thank you, but I’d rather sit in a regular seat”, and she said “OK, whatever” - THAT’S being helpful. When she started INSISTING over his protests that’s when she crossed the line. Yes, it’s a subtle thing - but sometimes little things are important. And when she started pushing him - yes, that was even worse.

Why am I obligated to be “on duty” as bigot-educator 24/7? Why didn’t she listen to him rather than treating a grown man like a child who doesn’t know what’s best for himself?

What does slamming her in the Pit do? It allows me to vent in a profane and insulting manner without actually screaming at the ignoramus involved and causing a disruptive public scene that no doubt would have disturbed the others on the train.

See reference above to being “on duty”. The handicapped do not exist to “educate” people, nor is it my purpose in life to right this particular wrong. For one thing, I’d never get done. Some people don’t want to be educated.

Truth is, if there was any “educating” to be done it was Dennis’s place to do it, not mine. The man is blind, not mute, and able to speak for himself. My “defending” him would have patronizing just as Ms. Busy-Body’s choosing his seat for him would have been patronizing. He choose to ignore the bitch, I followed his lead.

I don’t think bigot is the right term to describe her behavior. Intolerant is more like it. And Dennis tried to educate her. But her mind is fixed on what handicapped or disabled means. Maybe she didn’t listen because to change her mind would be to admit that she was wrong. Some people just can’t accept being wrong, especially when confronted with a sensitive subject.

I’m sure you know very well I think no such thing, and it’s insulting to me to insinuate otherwise.

The people who forced Rosa Parks to sit at the back of the bus did so because they didn’t want her anywhere near them and were trying to intimidate her. That’s bigotry, and of course there are people who feel the same way about people with disabilities, but the only way to fix that is to educate them.

Well that makes it more understandable that you should be upset about it. Apart from the story I quoted, I also have more personal reasons to object to intolerance about disability, so please understand that I do sympathise with you here.

That’s infuriating of course, and only goes to show how much more education is required.

Of course you’re not obligated, but as things stand you’re upset and she’s still an ignorant busy body. Screaming at her wouldn’t have helped either and I guess it would have been embarassing for the gentleman at the centre of this. Screaming achieves nothing; calm explanation often does. I can see how you might not have been able to find the right words at the time, but if you had, you might have got some satisfaction out of knowing she wouldn’t make the same mistake again. The same applies to the people who insult your husband in the car park - the more of them that have their ignorance repaired the less likely they’ll be to give offence in future.

That’s just ridiculous. Of course I’m not saying that handicapped people “exist to educate people”, but education is the only way to eliminate ignorance. You have no idea whether this woman wanted to be educated or not, only that she is currently ignorant and that she’s going to stay that way unless she learns better ways.

That at least is true. In the same situation maybe I would’ve ignored her too, and I certainly would have been more concerned about Dennis’s feelings than starting a crusade. But have you ever succeeded in explaining to somebody how they should behave towards people they don’t yet understand? Take my word for it, it’s much more satisfying and valuable than ranting on a message board.