There’s a been a bit of drama going on over a blog post about obese people using scooters in Walt Disney World (which I’m not linking to). The post itself bugged me a little (for various reasons), but it wasn’t the thing that got me fired up the most. As usual with “controversial” posts, it’s the comments where people lose their fucking minds. They take it as a license to completely bash people, based on their attributes or politics or beliefs. In this case, their weight.
Admittedly, I have a hard time staying neutral on the issue, because I am fat. I have been fat and I have been thin and I can tell you without a doubt that people treat you better, with more respect and kindness, when you are thin. So reading the horrible comments about disgusting fat people was pretty hurtful.
But I don’t want to lose sight of the point here. I understand where the author was coming from with the post. To me, at least, the problem isn’t fat people using scooter unnecessarily, but anyone using a scooter unnecessarily. I’m going to pretend that the original post had nothing to do with obesity and give my take on the scooter use in Disney World.
I’m not going to lie to you – I have had occasional thoughts like the author’s – I’m human after all, and I get frustrated. And frustration often makes us irrational, angry and yes – mean. I’m no exception. The first time we took the kids to WDW, it was after mr b had a devastating accident. Although he had mostly recovered, he still had a hard time being on his feet for long periods of time. And walking around WDW for five or ten (or more) miles every day definitely was out of the question. The day we arrived, by the time we checked into our resort and hopped a bus, we didn’t arrive at the Magic Kingdom until around noon. Our first stop was the scooter rental. Unfortunately, on many days the scooters are all rented by that time, so we couldn’t get one. Mr b could have gotten a wheelchair, but he had spent quite enough time in one and had no intention of starting again. So he decided to tough it out and head back to the resort early if he got too uncomfortable.
Because of the fact that we couldn’t get a scooter, I noticed how many of them were around. And yes – like the author of that blog, I got frustrated. While there were some people who were elderly or clearly handicapped, it seemed like the majority of those using them were folks who didn’t really need them. Some were seemingly healthy adults. Some were groups of giggling teens piling on and taking turns. And yes – some were obese. And I’m not proud to admit it, but I got mad. I found myself thinking unkind things about these people. In my defense, it wouldn’t have bothered me except for the fact that if these people hadn’t needlessly been using them, my actually handicapped husband would have one. But it’s no excuse.
The next day, we got to Epcot early and there were scooters available. Mr b got one and we headed into the park. He never once used the handicapped entrance – he had no intention of going to the front of the line. There are people who need to, but he isn’t one of them. Standing in a line wasn’t a big deal – it was getting from line to line that was the problem for him, so he’d park it, get in line with the masses and then get back on the scooter to head to the next attraction. However, what he thought was a good thing seemed to work against him. People would see him walking (seemingly) normally, then getting on a scooter which he obviously (to them) didn’t need. And they would give us dirty looks, and made under-their-breath (but still audible) comments about “lazy people.”
It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation – people that saw us heading from ride to ride assumed we were going to cut in their line. People who saw us park the thing and get in the line to wait looked at him with barely concealed disgust. It was obvious that both groups thought he was just lazy.
And that is why the kind of judgment going on over on that blog is dangerous. Because no matter how someone looks to you, no matter how normal, or how healthy, or yes – how fat – they look – you don’t ever really know the reasons behind their “lazy” use of the scooter. Many handicaps aren’t visible. Maybe that person in the scooter had a physical impairment that you can’t see – like mr b. Maybe they have severe, debilitating breathing problems, or a heart defect. Maybe they are weak from radiation or chemotherapy. Maybe that child has autism and can’t wait in lines like your child. Maybe that stroller isn’t actually a stroller, but a kind of stroller/wheelchair that makes it easier for the parents/child to get around. And any of the things I just mentioned can happen to a thin OR a fat person. But just because they are fat, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect and kindness you would give to their thin counterpart.
And yes – maybe they are just lazy. I know firsthand that it is frustrating to watch an entire family on scooters (complete with kids piled on) bypass the line and get great seats while you and yours wait in the long, hot, miserable (and sometimes stinky) lines. But I made the decision then and there to not be the person who gets upset about it. I decided to see those people and instead of feeling like I am missing out on something, to feel thankful that I am missing out on whatever pain or discomfort or ridicule they are experiencing. And I think I’m a better person for it.