Dear Unpleasant Man in Section 19, Row I, Seat ???

20 Jan

I’m sure you’ve read the post that’s gone viral, about how a guy on the plane was nice to a little girl with autism. This post is very sweet and lovely and it has gone viral. I can’t get enough of it. I even watched some news footage, and they had tracked down the guy and he was just some guy and he was just very nice and didn’t have much to say about the whole thing.

And you know what is so remarkable about this story?

What’s so remarkable about this story is how RARE that is, for a stranger to be nice to you and your kid if your kid has special needs.

Oh, sometimes strangers are overly nice, uncomfortably nice. Like the time I went to the zoo with Tracy and her twins, who are also on the spectrum, but tend to be higher functioning than Flower. And since I also had Curly with me, I stuck a sticker on Flower that said something like, “I HAVE AUTISM IF I AM LOST PLEASE CALL ___” and it listed my cell phone. Because Flower has been known to wander. And she’s not non-verbal, but she’s kind of functionally non-verbal. Like she might say, “I want Mommy!” But as far as who Mommy is, that would be beyond her ability right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, this nice man comes up to me and says something about how he’s been watching my daughter and he just wanted to tell me how adorable she is. Which was really… I mean, Flower is 7, so she’s kind of past the “awwww, a cute kid!” thing. And Tracy’s kids are just as adorable as Flower, but they weren’t wearing stickers. So I thought he was trying to, I don’t know… support me? Show himself how accepting he is of people with disabilities? Maybe he really did think Flower is adorable… she is very cute, but you know, I’m biased, and she’s 7.

Also sometimes strangers are not at all nice. Sometimes they stare. Sometimes they say things, like, “If I acted that way my mama would have smacked me,” That kind of thing. On Halloween, some lady waved her hand in Flower’s face when Flower didn’t look at her when she was taking candy. And I don’t think Flower’s autism is particularly well-hidden, that is, I don’t think Flower can “pass.”

Today we took Flower and Curly to a basketball game. They love to go. We got seats in kind of a crowded section, and then, lo and behold, in the row behind me, surprise! A friend from synagogue! The bishop and Curly sat down two rows back because our row was crowded and people had put coats on the seats. I’m sure we were being disruptive – not unreasonably so – but there was some passing of drinks back and forth and, at one point, Curly. But it’s a basketball game in the middle of the day, not a Yo Yo Ma concert. So this guy, rather nastily, says, “I feel like I’m intruding on your family conversation. Why can’t you just get seats together?”

We did get up and move. And maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that Flower, who was directly in front of him, was up and dancing instead of sitting quietly. But I didn’t feel that. Maybe it really had nothing to do with Flower. We’ll never know.

I just know that when I am in a position that I have to depend on the kindness of strangers, I worry, because strangers can often be remarkably unkind.


One Response to “Dear Unpleasant Man in Section 19, Row I, Seat ???”

  1. Jackie Wolk (@jacqwolk) January 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    I just love when someone finds out E has ASD and says, “but she’s so pretty!” Or, “she doesn’t even look like anything’s wrong!” Yeah, because all special needs kiddos are supposed to be these hideous chuds, dude.

    I have plenty more comebacks from whence that came. Feel free to borrow any or all of them if you want!

    Supposedly it’s my “job” to edumacate these ignoramuses and their offspring about ability diversity. I am happy to do so, if the individual is teachable. I will talk about autism with girls in E’s gen ed classes when they express interest in her differences. Ditto for grownups who, at their own admission, don’t know much about the disorder. I don’t offer excuses, though. If our good mutual friend Captain Oz has taught me nothing else, it’s that impatience and intolerance is the other person’s problem, not our kids’.

    I concur with you about the remarkable unkindness of strangers. Fortunately I have also had a few awesome experiences with them. (Ask me sometime about how Southwest earned my undying loyalty two years ago by doing E and me a huge solid getting us outta Midway.) I hope your family has some sometime too. xo

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