It is not cool to ask a physically disabled person what happened to them when first meeting. I realized this not too long ago when I was out and about with one of my girlfriends.
A friend of mine has been feeling a little depressed since she lost her job. So one day I call her and invite her out for drinks and maybe see a live band in great hopes of cheering her up.
She comes over, we talk a little as I finish getting ready for our evening.
It’s about 9:45 pm. We drive around for a bit. We first stopped at the local biker rock bar, which happens to be one of my favorite places to hang out. There was a band playing that night which I really wanted to see but unfortunately she didn’t want to be in a smoked filled place with a bunch of loud bikers. So we drove around once more until we were in the downtown area. I suggested we go to a wine bar and just sit, talk and listen to the acoustic musician playing while we drank wine. She agreed and parked her car in whatever spot was available at that moment which was close to the cute little wine bar at the corner of the downtown area.
As we get out of her car we here a rock band playing in the distance. So we follow the sound which lead to a swanky, yuppie bar close to one of the main buildings in the area. They were young college students from Wisconsin. I didn’t get the name of the band but they were really good. They played original music, classic rock and even a little early 90’s music with their personal touch. It was quite pleasant. It was an outdoors concert. The weather was quite pleasant for such an ocassion with the exception of a slight windy chill in the air.
There were table and chairs set up outside of a local bar. I think the band was playing for a while now because there was a good size crowd going.
The tables and chairs were already full so my friend grabbed a couple of empty chairs and set them aside where we could enjoy the music but still away from the crowd. She got a couple of glasses of wine while I settled in my spot.
The band was playing one of my favorite songs but I didn’t recognize it until the chorus. They had butchered it. But in my great disappointment of how they had treated my song I look up and notice my friend was emotional. I ask her if she was okay and she says yes and tells me she needs water. A waiter had passed by to ask her if she was okay and begins to comfort her. I think he was just being flirty because she was leaning on him. As I was trying to figure out what song the band was playing the waiter looks at me and instead of making me feel welcomed and asking me if I would like anything He looks at my fore arm crutches and AFOs(ankle/ foot orthos )and gestures with a finger and a wave and asks “What happened to you?” “What’s going on with you?” “Why are you like that?” and I look up at him trying to process his questions and then I say back to him. “The band is playing my song.” And he answers “ohh.” and then he walks away without taking my order.
Now I’m okay with questions. Ask away, it’s the only way to get good, vital information without being offensive. But please don’t let that be the first thing out of your mouth when approaching a physically disabled person. Do not let the physical disability be the focus of what could possibly be a pleasant conversation.
My disability is not the main aspect of my life. I am trying to get away from all that entails as a person with a disability. I have a lot of obstacles to hurdle on a daily bases which are stressful.I live in a world that can sometimes be very handicapped unfriendly. I am not going to start giving a total stranger information about my disability while on a relaxing outting (unless my life is in danger then we’ll talk).
Ask me about my favorite song, my favorite metal band, my art work, book, author…I am more than happy to answer any questions about my disability anytime but not while I’m trying to have a good time. Let’s be friends before asking me questions and maybe I’ll fill in the blanks.
Stay focused and don’t stare, That’s rude too.