Dedicated to the woman at the Walnut Creek Whole Foods who approached CL and said, "Wow, you are SO LUCKY to be shopping in a wheelchair. You don't have to carry anything, and walking won't make you tired. Do you even realize how lucky you are?"
CL: "Uh huh. Unfortunately, my chair is not a luxury item, like your BMW."
Or, the Safeway check-out clerk who asked CL's personal care attendant (Miss J), "are you this special lady's caregiver? You are so brave to help her out. I wish we had more people like you, to help those who are, um, you know-- special." Then, the check-out person turned to CL and said- very slowly and loudly-- "what a good girl you are, to do your very own shopping!"
Miss J: What was that about?
CL: She thought I was slow.
Miss J: Slow?
CL: Mentally challenged, mentally handicapped.
Miss J: What is that?
Miss J: WHAT? Why did you not defend yourself?
CL: Um, first time anyone in my life has ever assumed I was mentally handicapped, in some way. I was speechless.
Miss J: You need to go back, defend yourself, let her know that you are not retarded."
CL: And say what? She thought she was being nice, kind, open-minded. Asserting myself after-the-fact would embarrass her, and make me look even more mentally challenged. Next time, though? I'll find a delicate way to say, "hey, this chair does not make me mentally--"
Miss J: --retarded?
CL: Um, yeah. Retarded.
Thanks, S.K., for your insights this week.