Disability Walkabout by Miriam Sagan

I was at the Climate Strike rally, minding my own business. Sitting on a wall, propped by my cane, several feet from anyone else. A more elderly lady than I appeared, and a middle aged man, in his haste to get her a folding chair, hit my leg with said chair. Mumbled “sorry” and dashed away. I wasn’t hurt, but I was a bit freaked out. After all, that leg is the reason I’m avoiding the crush of a crowd. I can’t afford a lot more hits to it.
Recently, I’ve been in a dark mood on this subject. People seem to be more aggressive towards me when I’m on the cane. A friend said she didn’t think that was true, that people were just trying to be helpful. Another friend—also on a cane—said yes, sometimes it makes people hostile.
Or perhaps it just makes me visible in a way I don’t appreciate—like being pregnant. Thirty years ago—when I was—strangers would pat my stomach and comment. I don’t like being touched unexpectedly by people I don’t know, but I attempted to be pleasant.
Less so now. There was the airplane steward who tried to take my cane and put it in the bin when I was folding it up to fit in my pack. Somehow this put me negatively on his radar. Then my husband was rubbing my bad arm and neck.
“Keep this rated G,” the steward said.
We stared at him, taken aback.
“OK,” my husband said.
But the guy continued with more of this, aimed at me, “Keep it rated G.,” over and over.
“Sir,” I said.”I’m in pain. This helps. If it is inappropriate, just say so and I’ll stop.”
“I’m joking,” he said. That last refuge of a conversation that isn’t going well. “HE got my joke. Why not you?”
Because I’m a woman? On a cane? “I’m not in a joking mood,” I said.
Maybe that’s all it is. I’m not in the mood to be hit by a chair, give up my cane, be commented on. I’m just not in the fucking mood.

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