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When Other Shoppers Take Advantage of My Disability

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Recently I had some experiences that were quite unpleasant while I was shopping. I am sure many of you who have limited mobility may have experienced the same things as me.

I was having a hard time with my breathing from my asthma, as well as being in considerable pain from my wonky knee. I have osteoarthritis in this knee, and it was very swollen and extremely painful. Walking was taking quite a bit of effort and I was relying heavily on my walking stick to get around. I needed my walking stick due to both my breathing and the pain in my knee. Movement was slow and difficult.

First, in one rather large shop, I bought some embroidery thread and made my way to the checkout queuing point. I was two steps away from the point where you queue when a lady, older than me but without apparent mobility problems dashed in front of me and went directly to the serving bench. To say that I was put out would be putting it mildly. She had quite a complex query and took ages, and I was struggling with the pain and effort to stand and wait. But what still amazes me is the apparent deliberate taking advantage of someone’s lack of mobility to push in. Was I overreacting? Did I have a right to feel miffed?

About an hour later I was carrying a basket with some strawberry plants to the checkout of a very large hardware store. I was really struggling with my walking stick, my bag and my shopping in a basket. I was in a lot of pain and wanted to get to the car to sit and wait as my husband still had a lot more shopping and looking to do.  And again, as I turned into the aisle at the empty checkout a middle-aged man rushed from the left hand side of me to the checkout in front of me. No queuing for him! I actually felt extremely affronted this time, but was not game to say anything.

I inwardly fumed as he paid for his goods. As I was paying for my strawberry plants, he interrupted with a demand about what he had been charged. This was really rude as I was being served and the poor person on the checkout had to stop, turn to him and answer the questions. He once again was pushing in to get his needs met despite the fact that I was being served. He didn’t use any manners such as “Excuse me…” He apparently just thought he had the right to take over.

He also kept his goods on the counter so I couldn’t put my plants down! I pushed his stuff across out of he way so I could put my plants into a box and that was the total limit of my resistance and ability to stand up for myself. I was left feeling like I just didn’t count. I was cross with myself for being such a wimp. Why can’t these people show a little consideration and patience? Why do they think they are more important than anyone else?

I felt really hard done by in both these situations. I was very frustrated. I also felt these two shoppers had really been ignorant and inconsiderate. Does this happen to everyone with a mobility issue? How do you deal with it? It’s like you don’t matter and you aren’t considered as equal or as deserving of respect. Your lack of mobility is a chance for these people to get ahead. I suppose it is a form of bullying. They seem to perceive you as someone of whom they can take advantage. Is it because you appear weaker?

Maybe I am wrong to feel such annoyance at these people. Maybe they are just so focused on themselves that they are oblivious to the difficulties of others. Maybe they have no empathy. Maybe it’s just the rush, rush, rush of modern life, so they think they have to be first. Maybe I expect too much of my fellow human beings. But these experiences have left me feeling rather jaded.

The best part of the day was when one of the shop assistants saw me struggling and stepped in and carried my strawberry plants for me to the lift and then to my car. This kindness, after the two other experiences, really made an impression on me. Some people are kind and will go out of their way to help you; others are selfish and take advantage of your limitations.

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Thinkstock photo by Dovapi.

Originally published: June 29, 2017
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