You know what they say?

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An interesting encounter in the car park of our local shopping mall last week...

As all of the disabled spaces were filled, I had to park in a bay and a half in order to allow sufficient space for me to get my wheelchair out of the car. This is not uncommon, and particularly frustrating, as there are no wide bays other than those near the door. I don't need to be close, I just need to have enough space. It would be great if car parks either provided a couple of wide spaces much further away from the doors, or even have one or two bays for wheelchair users only.

So, I had opened the doors and I was getting ready to pull my wheelchair off the back seat, when I see a man strolling towards me through the parked cars.
"You're parked a bit wide there, champ."

Champ? CHAMP? If I was in a 1950's Science fiction movie, and I was an 8 year old boy called Johnny or Biff? By all means call me champ. But I am not. So please do not.

"I can't get my wheelchair out otherwise." My mission to explain kicks in again.
Ah, yes." He nods sagely. "Must be hard for you."
"It can be." I reply. Oh, how I wish he'd make it a bit easier by sodding off.
Then comes that most irritating of questions: "You know what they say?"
How can I possibly know what they say? To start with, to which 'they' are we referring? I mean, that's important. It might even reveal what language I should expect, let alone whatever cultural bias or world view is playing a role. I consider just saying, "Yep. I know exactly what they say." But unfortunately this reply only pops into my head a few days later. Next time...next time...

My silence is interpreted as, "No, I don't know what hey say, but this is me hanging on your every word. Please bestow upon me some words of profound wisdom."

"God only lets these things happen to those who are strong enough to cope."
Boom. Not for the first time, I am presented with what is supposed to be a comfort in my time of need.

At the risk of repeating myself, one of the more distressing aspects of this statement is that I know from personal experience that some people can't cope. They are crushed by the experience of spinal cord injury and all that it entails, and they check out early. I have lost friends like this.

I'm sure that some people derive strength from their faith. I can imagine how it could offer sense where there is none, to feel that there is some grander plan which they can't understand, but which ensures that everything will turn out alright in the end.

But for me, the idea that there is some omnipotent deity who could have intervened but chose not to because I was strong enough to cope, is no comfort whatsoever. Even more upsetting is the idea that such a supreme being chooses to allow young children and their parents to go through the terrifying experience of having cancer, or a rare medical condition that suddenly cuts a life so very short.

So what's my point?
Well, if you want to talk to me about life with a spinal chord injury or disability in general, then by all means ask. But pick your moment, and perhaps introduce yourself first before you launch into a discussion about some complex and potentially emotionally charged issues.

If you want to drop some half-arsed platitude on me? It doesn't help. Really, it doesn't. Especially if it's some folksy, crumb-of-comfort, superstitious bollocks. Things don't always happen for a reason. Nor do they only happen to those who can cope. And while I'm on the subject of simplistic-philosophies-which-have-no -practical-bearing-on-everyday-life, while it is true to say that there is always someone worse off than me (or you, or anyone else. As long as they are still alive, that is), this is not a helpful observation. I am not they.

Enough. I think you get the idea.

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