All of this happened in one day.
Catalina and I are on vacation at Myrtle Beach, attending a weekend of concerts. It’s Saturday morning. We are at the buffet breakfast which is included as part of the hotel room; Yes! I love food, particularly if I can perceive it as a freebie. This food isn’t very good though. And it isn’t really a buffet, just once through a short line.
Other hotel guests are there at various tables. Two tables over from me is a man with a walker and his wife. His wife isn’t the walker… All the tables between him and the exit are occupied. He gets up to leave. His wife precedes him. First he goes to his right. And tries to fit between the man sitting there and the next table. That’s a no go. Then he turns and starts my way. I see the recognition in his eyes. This isn’t going to work either. There is a solid wall of tables and people. I get up. “Can I help you with this?” I take his walker, lift it over my head, and carry it through the gap next to the first man where he had tried to leave. Without his walker, the man slides through the gap and thanks me again. He’s off.
I go back to my own table wondering why the first man didn’t offer to move and let him through. Why didn’t his wife who was sitting with him suggest that he move? Troubling, don’t you think?
The tickets to the concerts were assigned, not just arrange yourself any old where. We’d been sitting with the same people all weekend. A guy with a good tenor voice sat next to Catalina. He’d was disabled, had difficulty walking. In fact he had come on a narrow, manual scooter that he had parked at the end of the row all weekend.
It was the evening, the final concert. It is about to start. Suddenly there is an usher. She calls over to the guy. “I need to move your scooter.” He is aghast; it is his mobility, his independence. He asks her how he will get it back. She tells him to just let her know and she will get it for him. Now how does that work? She isn’t sitting with us. I ask her, “Is there a problem with leaving it there? He’s had it all weekend and this is the first that it’s been an issue.” She looks flustered, desperate. Muttering incoherently, she grabs the scooter and takes off, parks it a good 50 yards away.
The man is distraught. This is foolishness. I calm him. “Look as soon as the concert starts, I’ll go get your scooter and put it back for you”. The concert starts. I go get it. I slide it into the same place as it was. The lady in the row behind glares at me. The disabled tenor is very relieved, very thankful. The scooter stays there for the rest of the concert.
As we are leaving from the concert, sliding from the end of the row, the lady who had glared at me demanded that I move the scooter out of her way. I hadn’t perceived it as being in her way. I gave a momentary glare back and left, without touching the scooter.
But maybe she had difficulty moving, still the scooter was not in her way. Yes, but it intruded a little into the end of the row, which was her personal space. My kindness to the man was an intrusion to her. From her perspective, I was the one who was rude and disrespectful.
Is this really an example of not just communicating? Have we become accustomed only to non-interpersonal communications say through emails, IMs, or blogs (Watch it buddy, this is a blog!)? Wouldn’t it have helped if she had let the fellow who was disabled know that his scooter bothered her? Maybe he could have moved it to the row ahead of us, asked the teenager there if it would be alright?
And what about the morning? Was that communication. I don’t think that the disabled man with the walker should have had to ask, but still, wouldn’t the whole problem have gone away if he had communicated the need for a space to slip through to the guy who behaved as statuary?
We seem to have grown accustomed to not extending kindness, even being unkind. But we also seem to have grown uncomfortable with any communication that could even be marginally confrontational.