I wonder how often we assume that our actions are warranted and are correctly interpreted by those around us? Since acquiring my disability, the impact another’s actions has had on my everyday seems to affect me a lot more. Whether I’m more sensitive or vulnerable and more reliant on others to do certain things, I don’t know. However, as the years have gone by and I now seem to fit into my disabled skin a little better; I have learnt when another’s behavior helps and when it just seems to hinder my performance.
Today I had a GP appointment and had phoned a cab to return home afterwards. I was waiting outside the surgery rooms for a cab. After my long waits for cabs this week, I decided to use my leftover energy to check my emails on my iPhone and not waste it on getting more and more frustrated, predicting a longer wait as it was a Friday. I even had decided to sit outside on the verandah in the sun and away from the germs in the waiting room.
My email inbox was full. I was so engrossed in my phone that I didn’t see the bright yellow car arrive or the cab driver walk straight past me inside the Doctor’s surgery. However, I was startled when I heard the front door slam and looked up to see a clump of metal keys being dangled in front of my eyes. The cab driver raised his wrist slowly and then dropped it, repeating this clunking sound a few times whilst saying, “Wakey Wakey”. I was speechless. Still seated, I looked to my left to see the short, blonde headed receptionist (who had followed him out to show him where I was) gazing in my direction apologetically, her arms poised at her lips as if unsure how to explain to this man that his behaviour was horrific. I think he had assumed that I had deliberately chosen to waste his time, making him walk into the reception area.
I stood, unlocked my frame’s brakes and in a heavy fog of both utter humiliation and anger at his inappropriate actions, followed the cab driver’s quick pace to his vehicle. He sighed loudly, staring at my walking frame for a few seconds as if contemplating whether expending the effort required to lift it into his boot would be worthwhile. I opened the door and got in, making up his mind for him.
Once my seatbelt was on, he turned to me saying, “The phone has your attention.” I looked ahead and said nothing. He started the car and we drove fast to make up for the time we’d wasted. Then the whole way he made a ‘tick tick tick” sound as if telling me off for not looking out for him back at the GP’s rooms – either that or his indicator was broken! Then under his breath he repeated, “rude, awful, rude!!!” I said nothing. Instead, tears welled up in my eyes, and I concentrated on taking slow deep breaths for the remainder of the journey.
As we drove into my street I swallowed the humiliation and mustered up the courage to tell him how his actions had made me feel. Perhaps this would stop him from upsetting another. I decided to use this frustration he’d stirred in me to educate him.
Maybe he’s oblivious to how he’s making me feel!
When we arrive at my destination, I hand him the money in silence and gutted, wait for him to get out my wheels. I decide to not say anything bad that may upset him until I have my change and I’m out of his car. Then, with one hand on my frame’s arm and the other on the door’s window I say, “Sir, I apologise if you thought I didn’t see you back at the Doctors’ surgery but I do have poor vision and the way you shook your keys and spoke to me really made me feel bad”.
Shocked at my explanation he put his sunglasses on his head, slowly put his hand on mine and said, “I am so sorry, I didn’t realize…thank you for telling me”.
Often we don’t stop and think that perhaps how we are acting is unintentionally negatively impacting another. I’m just glad I decided to explain to him how I was feeling and hopefully prevented another being thrown by his behavior.
Perhaps next time consider if you have interpreted another’s intentions and subsequent actions correctly. And how can you react to elicit a positive, behavior-changing outcome?