Tuesday, October 4, 2011


For those of you who read this blog, but do not know me personally, part of my physicallness is that I walk with forearm crutches. I was born with Spinal Bifida and supposedly, I have walked with forearm crutches longer than anyone else in the country. At the age of 52, I have walked with crutches 47 years. There are people older than me, but none walking longer. I have never used a wheelchair, except when I had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. Then my husband was the one that really used it, because I could not turn the wheels. So my mobility depends on crutches.

That background brings me to the grocery store. When I shop I have to use the motorized carts. Now, I do not believe the stores are obligated to have them, but I am glad they do. Without them I cannot shop by myself. Earlier in my life I used to hold the grocery cart with one hand and crutch with the other. But several years ago the grocery carts were made larger and I am 4 ft 6in tall,too small to make this work anymore. The benefit of the cart is mostly for carrying things for me, I cannot carry and walk.

So...I go to the grocery store and there is one cart available for use. This is great. I get in the cart, unplug it and start out. I usually have to go in through the exit door, because people leave their regular carts blocking the path to the front door. I work my way over to produce and see another woman in a cart. Ok, first you need to know that gimps check each other out. And we can call each other gimps, but no, you may not. It is just the rules of the game. And may I suggest that if you do not know that rule, you might not actually be one of the club?

I pass the woman, glancing sideways to see if she has a cast, a cane, anything will do. But, alas, no. There are crutches in my cart. Maybe she has a lung or heart disorder, ok, hidden handicaps count. The woman notices me and smiles. "Hi, I just didn't feel like walking today, nothing is wrong with me, isn't that funny?" I stopped my cart. "No, it isn't." We stare and I go on. I can not believe the encounter.

One day I went into a large department store and I was waiting in line for a motorized cart. The wait was to be approximately 20 minutes. I was the last in line and fully alright with the fact that if I could not wait, then I could come back later. There are only so many carts. A tall large young gentleman comes in and sits behind me and he is asked if he is waiting on a cart also. He says no and continues to sit in line. All of a sudden a woman appears on a cart, motions to the gentleman behind me and all of a sudden he can walk very fast gets on the cart the woman is exiting. Now she had gotten this cart by telling a customer she worked for the store and would put it away. I stand up and yell, "Hey, there are people waiting in line for the carts you have to wait your turn." Immediately I am told by the greeter that they have nothing to do with this. "Yes, you can call a manager and people can get carts in order." No response. The gentleman is now wheeling away with the cart. The woman who procured it for him comes over to me. "You just need to be grateful that you are not as handicapped as he is and smile." My reply, "He may be handicapped, but he has to wait in line like everyone else for his turn." Her response, " I said smile, you are not getting the cart." At this point I exited the store.

Another situation was when I had a cart and could not get out of its parking place because of a young family of five children and a mother who had turned to face me, all staring. "This is a crippled person, she can't walk she has to use a cart. Her legs don't work." "Excuse me, please. I need to get through." No one moves, but the youngest one does wave. Finally is desperation I go through the exit to enter the store. One of the children says, "Mommy, she went in the wrong door." Her mother sugerly answers, " I know honey, crippled people can't read, so she doesn't know." My cousin often asks me how I do not slap people. I am not always sure. Note to those not in our club: If you or your children have any questions ask me. I have real answers to your questions and I have had practice, they are polished and ready.

This is not to be a post on how I, Traci is treated, but how the world sees handicapped people. The view that disturbs me the most is that generally the handicapped community does not label themselves that way, it is just a part of our physicalness, like having brown hair or blue eyes. But with the new trend of self-victimiztion and entitlement, at least with motorized carts and parking spaces, everyone wants to be a gimp. Everything seems to be a handicap. If people limp, are tired, feel depressed and are bipolar, they have a false belief that they are in the club. You are not. People!, it just is not that glamorous.

If you really need a cart or parking space that bad, ask, I will let you have it first. But you are not part of the club. Now, if you insist on trying to be pledges, let me give you a few rules with those carts you love so much. When you get through using the cart, bring it back in the store, park it in the designated spot and plug it in. A card carrying member just might need that cart later. Or Low and behold, you may come back tomorrow and want it yourself. And Card Carrying Members I have noticed many of you are lax in this area. Do you not want to keep your present status? Back to pledges: If you want my parking space, by all means cut me off before I slide into the spot myself. But pledges, please, please, have the good graces to limp as you walk in the store or at least grab your chest and slightly lean forward at least until you saddle up to the cart right inside your door. There are not enough motorized carts and parking places for all of us. So pledges, mind these rules - Card Carrying Members are watching you.


Jack Vinson said...

It's just a good thing they didn't run into you in your younger, crazier days.

Anonymous said...

Traci, I wasn't aware that earth-bound angels needed store carts, but am glad you get the chance to sit down, once in a while, to rest those tired wings.

It amazes me (but shouldn't since I see evidence of the dumbing down of Americans every day) how many people are so callous and insensitive toward handicapped people.

jen said...

jen the Lutheran pastor's wife from Segullah here. :)

When I was pregnant with my son, I lived in rural Montana and would occasionally come down to Great Falls for doctor's appointments or to shop. Some of the shopping centers had parking spaces for pregnant women and I appreciated those spaces like nothing else, especially during month 6 when I had appendages swelling up due to the preeclampsia that eventually got me an emergency c-section at 29 weeks.

One day, a car cut me off and pulled into one. Out climbed a bunch of teenaged boys and they sauntered into Barnes and Noble. The woman who had parked next to me looked at me (at this point, I was 6 months along and visibly pregnant) and commented snarkily that she wondered which one of them was pregnant and when they were due.