Not long ago, I loaded up two of my grandkids and off we went to one of those Mega Hyper Pizza places that latch a vacuum hose to your wallet as soon as you walk in. You know the ones...lots of games, rides, carbs, sugar, overwrought parents and screaming kids.
If you're familiar with this blog you already know my eight-year-old granddaughter Adelia is disabled. She gets around just okay with a walker, but it's a slippery slope. Anyway, we (almost three-year-old brother Che Jr. too) got in my car...wait.
Getting in the car with a disabled child and a little boy is, in itself, a turbulent journey. The walker doesn't fit in the car. The seat belt is crammed deep into the back seat on both sides. The car seat is awkward and big. Che Jr. is running into the street tired of waiting on the losers holding him back. Luckily, the walker folds up so you can put it in the trunk...wait.
The Incredible Hulk couldn't get that walker folded up.
Thirty minutes and three pounds of sweat later we're in the car. I'll just let you imagine what it's like getting out of the car and into the Mega Hyper Pizza place. We made it inside where a great time was had by all...wait.
Of the more than 20 Mega Hyper Pizza place staff, not one offered assistance. They stood around watching me struggle to get food from the buffet line, keep Adelia upright, and Che Jr. from getting kidnapped. Parents pushed Adelia out of the way so their kid could get in front of her in line for one of the very few rides that actually worked...wait.
It didn't work. A staff member stood idly by while I wrangled Che Jr. and lifted my granddaughter (not an easy task) onto the ride before telling me the ride didn't work after all. They will probably be talking about the crazy lady who got all gangsta over the kiddie train at this year's employee holiday party.
I realized that I'd attempted this trip solo because I relied, in advance, on the kindness of strangers. Surely, if it was too hard, someone would help. Right? Another parent or grandparent? Employees who would certainly have been instructed about customer service? Not a one. I pondered this while trying not to cry in the Happiest Fucking Place on Earth.
Then, I almost cracked my head open when I fell off my high horse.
How many times have I walked past someone struggling without a thought? How many deep sighs rumbled from the back of my throat because the elderly woman in the grocery store went too slow in front of me? How many grocery lines have I left because the developmentally disabled bag kid is working there and I don't have the patience for it?
I was blind, but now I see.
I'm not going to be an asshole and say I now know what it's like to walk a mile in Adelia's shoes. I do, however, know what it's like to have walked an inch in my daughter's and son-in-law's. Everyday living with a disabled child, spouse, parent, take your pick - ain't for wimps. You go it alone. My daughter who, by the way, sweetly tried to dissuade me from making this trip by myself called out the Mega Hyper Pizza place management ( 'cause you don't want to mess with her kids or her mama) who then sent a swarm of staff to help, but they quickly lost interest. Welcome to the world for the disabled.
It occurred to me that the disabled are the last frontier for causes. Perhaps they need to be transgendered to get attention. We passed laws to aid the disabled didn't we? Yes, but the laws to protect the disabled have very little to do with my point. All the ramps, close parking spots, handrails and widened doorways in the world can't change attitudes or endow anyone with common courtesy.
Note to parents - it won't kill little Johnny to wait an extra five minutes to get on the Dumbo ride. And don't get me started on bathroom etiquette.
My rallying cry today is simple: Ask.
If you see someone (and I challenge you to look for them) who might need help - ask. They'll let you know. Don't be a jerk. Don't raise your kids to be jerks. Are we all really in such a hurry that we need to stampede a kid with a walker or leg braces for a piece of pizza?
I promise you, no matter how inconvenient you think it is for you - it's 1000 times worse for them.