Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When worlds collide: Dealing with service calls

How do you deal with a service call when you have a disability?

This morning I have one scheduled. I know that there's a chance I'll get a technician who comes in, does his/her job and leaves. However, there have been times when I am asked to move items and perform other tasks they feel customers should do that, without an able bodied person here, I can't do.

I think of it as worlds colliding: someone who has no clue how profound my paralysis is enters my home and expects me to do able bodied tasks. Usually they're not familiar with my disability or trained in disability awareness. But it's an unsettling feeling at best and can be downright frustrating at worst.

I've decided, however, that the best way to handle it is according to the Tao of Betsy. Betsy was a woman I met at a Catholic retreat who, after watching me explain why I couldn't help make signs, took me aside and said "Just say no."

I blinked at her, newly disabled person that I was and said "What?"

"You don't owe any explanations to anyone. You don't need to even tell them the disability you have. That's medical information. Just say no. Period."

So the rest of that weekend I did exactly that. Since I was on staff at the retreat, the situation popped up fairly frequently. People assumed when they saw my staff label that I could do x, y or z. Just saying no was a very easy way to handle these frequent requests.

I also found that I no longer personalized any of it when I handled the situation that way. And it felt more like my reality- not everyone else's - was honored. The word 'no' aptly describes what I feel, think and experience internally when faced with a physically impossible task as in " No way." It's just nicer to leave off the 'way'.

So I know if this service person asks me to perform any able bodied tasks that I can't, I'll just say "No." Of course I have no clue what he or she will say when our worlds collide.

But it is only a service call.


Anonymous said...

Your blog constantly raises my awareness. I never thought of what would happen in this situation. I'm thinking of a plumber I use who I know would act like this.


Elizabeth McClung said...

Letting you know that I appreciated this insight and have linked to it in a BBC ouch! piece.