Category Archives: kindness

Scooter Wars

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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.

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Pay It Forward

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March for Maddie Giveaway is still going on. Can you help? Donate and you could WIN!
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I’ve always been the “sucker”. I mean, I don’t think I’m a sucker at all – but other people often do. You know – the one who gives the panhandlers money and puts change in the half-assed can on the minimart counter labeled “For Chairity.” I know that many times, I am probably being taken for…well…a sucker. But I don’t care. I’ve always been a firm believer that even if 9 out of 10 of those panhandlers take my money directly to the liquor store, that it still leaves one that I might actually be helping. And helping that one person is more important than not helping the other nine.

I’ve been known to do things that other people think are crazy – buying breakfast and a bus fare for a woman and her mother who were stuck at a hospital all night with no means to get home. They cried and felt bad that they couldn’t pay me back. I told them don’t worry – just pass it in. I once stopped – in the Hill no less – to help a man and his two young grandkids whose car had broken down. I gave him some money to get a cab and he wanted my address so he could send it back to me. I told him to pass it on. I try to help people whenever I can, and my response is always pass it on – pay it forward. I believe that even simple acts of kindness – like taking back someone’s shopping cart, or helping someone carry their groceries, or giving up a seat to someone on a bus – really can change the world. And I believe that it will eventually come back to you.

Many years ago, I was on a business trip in Chicago. Around the time I was there, the city was having a rash of pick-pocketings. Everywhere you went, businesses had signs about holding on to your bags and purses. Restaurants warned women not to hang your purse on the back of your chair. I took the warnings to heart and carried a tiny purse that I wore across my body. It had a button flap and a zipper. It rested right against my hip. It was pick-pocket-proof. Or so I thought.

My last night in the city, I walked a few blocks to a restaurant. I had an amazing, relaxing dinner and asked for my check. When the waiter was getting it for me, I reached into my purse for my card and discovered that my wallet was gone. I had it when I had left the hotel and didn’t take it out along the way. But apparently, somewhere in the crowds on the way to the restaurant, someone did.

I was in a panic. I had visions of washing dishes (like they always do in the sitcoms when they can’t pay the check). I had visions of being arrested. I was terrified. When the waiter came back, I was in tears as I explained what had happened. He told me to come with him and led me to the front desk to speak with the manager. I was literally shaking, worrying not only about the dinner check, but about the fact that my money, my debit card, my company credit card, and my ID were all gone and I had a flight home the next morning.

The manager was a sweet woman who immediately told me not to worry – that she would help me (which of course brought on more tears). She told me not to think twice about my meal – it was on them and they were glad to show me that their city was better than the pickpocket who had ruined my trip. She told me that the waiter would be taken care of when I worried about his tip. She wanted to give me money for a cab back to the hotel but I refused, since it was only a few blocks. She insisted on calling the hotel to let them know what happened, so they wouldn’t think I was trying to get out of paying. I sat at the bar with a (free) glass of wine, watching this amazing and kind woman take care of things for me – talking with the hotel and finding out that they were going to provide me with cab fare back to the airport the next day (because otherwise she intended to do so).

While this was going on, the couple sitting next to me spoke up. They told me they had heard what happened and they were sorry that something like that happened in their city. They told me that they wanted to help me and handed me $40. I refused, saying that I would be fine. But they insisted. They said that I couldn’t go to the airport with no money. They said you never know what might happen and that I might need it. They said I needed to eat something. They said that they wouldn’t be able to sleep that night if they didn’t help me out. So I gave in and took it and asked for their address to pay it pack. They told me they didn’t want me to pay it back, they wanted me to pay it forward. And I’ve been trying to do that ever since.

This post was inspired by Secret Agent L. If you don’t read her blog already, you should check her out, along with It Starts With Us.

And pay it forward whenever you can.