Crossing the Street


I'm in a bad mood. It's been the kind of day that makes you wish you had never gotten out of bed. And the day is not over. I'm now trying to get to a 6:30 meeting and it's already 6:35. As I wait at the corner for a light that's taking forever to turn green, I hear a man's voice asking: "Can I help you cross the street?"
I know that, in the mood I'm in, even if I manage to produce the required "No, thank you," it would not sound very polite. So I just don't bother answering. I choose to assume that the question is not directed at me. After all, why would anyone ask me if I need help crossing the street? Isn't it obvious that in my sleek Quickie wheelchair I can get to the other corner faster than anyone on foot? If only the damn light would turn green.
But the good Samaritan is not discouraged by my unresponsiveness. “I'll be very glad to help you cross the street,” he says.
I just move my head from side to side in the universal gesture meaning “no” and manage to produce a hint of a forced smile. I always try to be polite to self-appointed good Samaritans. There may be a disabled person who could use and would welcome some help, and I wouldn't want, with my rudeness, to stop anyone from providing help, when help is needed. But, because I'm in such a hurry, I'm now finding this man's insistence really annoying.
Maybe interpreting my annoyed silence as evidence of mental incompetence, the man decides to get in front of me to make sure I don't move. I try to get around him, since I really need to take off the minute the light changes, but he's quick to stop me. "Not yet, not yet!" he yells. “Don't worry, I'll tell you when you can cross!”
Should I tell this man that I'm not at all worried? Just in a rush and at this point, feeling a bit harassed? Should I tell him that I've crossed many roads in my life, that I've gotten very far in my wheelchair, fighting many battles, getting around many obstacles, always trying not to let ignorance, prejudice nor patronizing attitudes stop me?
The man is relentless. "Don't move yet!"
I'm afraid if I open my mouth an obscenity may spurt out of it. I keep trying to ignore him and stare at the light wishing it would turn green.
As the light finally changes, the man shouts: "OK, now, follow me!"
Still ignoring him, I manage to get past him and, giving my wheels a few strong turns, I get across the street, hoping to make the next light and not be more than 15 minutes late for my meeting.
"Hey, take it easy! You're going to get a speeding ticket!" the man yells after me.

And Then, p. 37, Volume 18, 2015

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