A Stunning Blow

A Stunning Blow

Believe me, I wish I were making this stuff up. But it all too often happens to me and many others with disabilities and differences. Truth is stranger than fiction and sometimes more depressing.

My other half and I went on a short out-of-town trip; we left yesterday and returned today. We took our daughter to visit her stepsister, who teaches elementary school in a town about four hours southeast of us by car. The two sisters enjoy getting together every summer for swimming, rock hunting, marshmallow roasting, and all sorts of big fun. 

We stopped for lunch yesterday in Limon, Colorado, population two thousand people–and at least twice as many cows. My little girl and I both had to visit the restroom, so we found our way there while her dad stood in line at Subway to order sandwiches for all of us.

My daughter was doing a serious potty dance. Yes, it’s still a thing for ten-year-olds when the need is urgent. As soon as a stall opened up, my kid pounced on it and slammed the door.

“I was in line,” a woman informed me icily. “Your daughter cut in front of me.”

“I’m sorry …” I stammered, surprised by her frosty tone. “Kids forget their manners sometimes … we’ve been on the road … you’re next. I’ll move my dog over here by the wall out of your way … again, I apologize.”

I backed toward the corner of the restroom, and the annoyed woman flounced toward me. I heard the swish of her skirt and the quick tap of her shoes on the linoleum floor.

BAM! The nearest door swung outward and crashed into my face as the woman entered a stall. I couldn’t say for sure if the woman struck me with the door on purpose or by accident, but she certainly didn’t apologize.

“Wow, you’re one tough chick,” I snapped, shocked and angry, putting a hand to my chin where the door had hit me.

A photo of a line of bathroom stalls in a public restroom.
ID: A photo of a line of bathroom stalls in a public restroom.

No answer came from the stall where the woman had gone. But my daughter appeared right then, and I didn’t want to make a scene. So I dropped both my hand and the issue quickly.

I went into the stall my daughter had vacated and took a few moments to weigh my options. I had just been assaulted. My daughter could probably identify the woman she had cut in front of, but she hadn’t seen me get hit with the door. I couldn’t prove that had happened, and I didn’t know if any of the other women in the busy restroom had seen it, or whether they would back me up if they had. Besides, there would be Father’s Day bratwurst on the grill for my other half and his son-in-law at our destination in a few hours. Why ruin that because some “bee with an itch” had decided to attack someone who couldn’t see it coming? I wasn’t hurt, and the Limon police probably had better things to do than settle a squabble in a small town sub shop. Even if they didn’t, I did.

I left the stall and asked my little girl as we washed our hands, “Honey, did you cut in the bathroom line?”

“Yeah,” she admitted. “I really had to go. I was about to … I just … Mom, I had to go.”

“I know. But we have to take turns.”

“I got it. But it was an emergency.”

Ten-year-old logic. I couldn’t argue with that.

I also can’t argue with this–you don’t hit people in the face with stall doors when their kids cut you in the restroom line. Not just blind people, any people. It ought to go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t. So I’m saying it.

I guess I should be able to shake off the incident and let it drop. Like water off a duck’s back, my dad used to say. I will; I always do. But these sorts of things have been happening with alarming frequency lately. Hate is becoming a way of life in our world, not just for people with disabilities, but for those with different skin colors and for too many people altogether.

The problem is that when micro-agressions like this add up, they chip away at my sense of belonging, if I let them. They erode my feeling of value, my self-worth, my idea of where and how I fit in the world. I’m determined not to let narrow-minded strangers define my place in society. People who don’t know and love me don’t get to decide how I feel about myself. But it’s not easy to remember that when they keep trying. I got away this time with a sore spot on my chin, no mark at all. The bruise on my soul may take a little longer to heal.

Editor’s Note: Read more from Jo Pinto on Blind Motherhood, and check out her book, The Bright Side of Darkness, available on Amazon.com. 

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2 Comments

  1. I SO identify with this! My most recent experience didn’t result in physical pain, but it was a microaggression nonetheless.
    A few weeks ago, I was walking down the hall in my office building. I’ve worked there for nearly 18 months, and I know how security talks to the public; they talk to me the same way (admittedly with a bit more familiarity these days). My guide dog had just gotten very sick (the result of an intestinal blockage that would later require surgery), and I was headed back to my office when an unfamiliar security staff member asked what office I was going to. The typical question is usually “Can I help you?” So this question stood out to me.
    I told them that I was going to the office I work in, and brandished my key card.
    “Oh, I just assumed you were lost.”
    I know all this person had to go on was that I am a blind person with a guide dog, but I was walking confidently and purposefully. There’s no reason to assume I didn’t know my destination; unless this person asked the general public the same question in the same tone, I was being singled out as a disabled person who “clearly” didn’t know where I was going.
    I swiped my key card, turned around, and shot back, “Can you not assume that? Because it’s really rude.”
    I’m so fortunate that I work with people who understand how microaggressions affect people. They did not put the burden on me to walk taller, or be nicer, or politely educate on how I belonged there, or anything of the sort.
    Normally, like Jo wrote in this post, we’re told to “shake it off,” “to be nice,” to “understand.”
    And we do.
    Sometimes more often than we should.
    But it eats at your soul, a little at a time, chipping away, away, away…

    1. It eats at me all the time.

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