Recently I was in a coffee shop waiting for a friend. I’d gone a bit early to do some writing (which didn’t happen in the end) and as I was queuing for a drink a very vague acquaintance was in the queue in front of me. They turned and said Hi.
I said hello and asked how they were and we chatted a bit. Briefly but friendly, but not really involved. I don’t know this person and I don’t think we have much in common so I guess that’s how that’s going to stay.
They then mentioned having seen someone we both know recently who for the purposes of this blog I’ll call Dan. Dan had recently been in an a bit of an accident from what they were saying.
My acquaintance and I first met at a workshop that was facilitated by a guy called Dan. So I was sure that was who they were talking about. I haven’t seen Dan in maybe two months but some of what they were saying about wasn’t adding up.
Until I realised that the Dan they were talking about was obviously a wheelchair user. And the Dan I thought they were talking about (mutual friend) isn’t a wheelchair user.
I don’t know this Dan who uses a wheelchair. I know there is a guy called Dan who lives near me who uses a chair. Because of a very vague connection like his mum lives near a good friend of mine and my friend has done the “nod smile and wave” thing a few times when we’ve been out and he’s wheeled past then turned to me and said “that’s Dan…”
Maybe it’s him and maybe it’s not but if it is I’m not sure I’ve ever spoken to him beyond saying hi if he does when I’m with my friends. I don’t know anything about him. He’s not my friend and really I don’t think I could call him an acquaintance either. I don’t think he’d know me if you said “Emma” to him, or even if you said “Emma in the wheelchair.”
I’m sorry but it really winds me up that just because I’m in a wheelchair people assume I know someone else who is in a wheelchair let alone that I’m friends with them.
I have lots of friends.
Some have disabilities and use wheelchairs
Some have disabilities and don’t use wheelchairs
Some are nondisabled.
In pretty much all the cases of friends who are also disabled I have much more in common with them than the fact we both have a disability even if we originally met through a disability group or sailability or something else disability related.
I don’t automatically have to be best friends forever with someone else who spends their life on wheels. And don’t fucking other me by assuming that I do.
In fact earlier this week I had a dealing with another wheelie and I thought “sooner I don’t have to deal with you any more the better” because they were horrible to someone I really care about.
All my acquaintance had to do was start this conversation with “so do you know Dan?” and it would have been completely different. Because not only would they have known from the word go that I don’t know Dan (something I never mentioned because I didn’t want to prolong the conversation when it got to the nature both got our drinks stopping point) but I wouldn’t have been confused.
And hopefully I wouldn’t have been told the (luckily not very personal) details of the very bizarre sounding accident of this wheelchair user called Dan who I don’t know but may or may not be the one whose mum lives near my friend. And who might not have wanted a complete stranger told about his wheelchair breaking accident.
I wouldn’t have done.