Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Does It Feel?

Chris and I were traveling down the road on the way to the grocery store.  That's one of the things we do together.  I'm entrusted with the task of making sure he doesn't spend all his life savings at the store... any store.  
On this day, with an unusual level of enthusiasm Chris said, "Guess what I saw the other day?!" 
"I don't know, what?" I was intrigued.  
"I saw a little person! Right there! Walking down the street! I had never seen one before."  He said it like it was an exhibit at the zoo - an Okapi.  He continued, "He was a student going to class.  I know because he had a backpack."  
"I saw the show on TLC - Little People Big World, but I'd never actually seen a little person.  That's what they like to be called, 'little people'. I know they don't like 'midget'.  I learned that.  I'd never call them that.  I'm nice.  I would have offered him a ride.  I'm very nice and I would have pulled over and offered him a ride." (Chris drives.)  
The irony of this whole conversation was not lost on me.  I was practically swimming in an ocean of it.  I considered the fact that Chris barely clears five foot in a pair of good shoes.  I marveled internally at his obliviousness to the fact that he was perpetuating the same reaction he'd fought so hard against all his life.  How many times had he been gawked at by bystanders? Was this the reason he deemed it okay, saying, " I've been treated this way all my life.  It's the norm.  It's okay." or was it that he just didn't get how ironic his reaction was.  I genuinely believe it's the latter.  
At this point my social worker instincts kicked in and I posed a safety thought in his path, "You know Chris, just because he's a little person doesn't necessarily mean he's nice.  You know I think that because you have a rule not to let strangers in your car that you should stick with that regardless of their height."
"Oh I know.  Oh I would get to know him.  I would pull over while he was walking to class.  I would open my door and I would say, 'Hey.  How does it feel to be a dwarf?'.  That's was I would say, dwarf, not midget.  Because I know they don't like 'midget' and I'd never call them that."
I fought with everything in me not to laugh - not to lose control of the car in such violent laughter - with the image in my mind of a middle-aged person in a small SUV pulling off the side of the road, opening his door to a non-suspecting little person.  The door would open the same way a minivan door does in a drive-by kidnapping.  Then the question, "How does it feel to be a dwarf?" and that's all.  Silence.  I debated whether to innocent pedestrian would give him the finger, tell him to fuck off, call him a jack ass or all three.  I was leaning toward all three.  
I didn't want to kill his spirit of friendliness, but perhaps challenge his thinking a little.  I said, "You know Chris, I think that little people would like to be treated like everybody else and maybe asking 'How does it feel...'"
"Oh I know!" He interjected, "I would treat him just like everybody else. I'm nice.  That's what I'd do."
I considered him driving up to a stranger, flinging the door open and asking, "How does it feel to be of average height?"  I could see the dilemma in his statement, but he never could.  So, if you happen to be a person of somewhat shorter stature and are approached as if you might be kidnapped in a drive by door flinging open experience in which you're asked the most personal of questions.  Just know, it's not personal.  Chris just wants to get to know you and maybe offer you a ride.