Friday, September 4, 2015

The Lioness in Lamb’s Clothing

If I could use an animal to describe who I am, I’d say “a lamb” --- soft spoken, slow to anger, blah blah blah. . . But I am totally aware of the fact that there is another personality lurking behind that supposed gentleness. The claws had come out a couple times in the past and many times they took place in a public washroom. Yes, I think you know where this is going. It was when people abuse the only accessible stall in a half-empty washroom. 

It all started when I was still a student in University. The accessible stalls in my school were particularly luxurious with its own sink and vanity. One fateful afternoon, I was quietly waiting for the stall to free up. According to my observation under the door, the occupant was someone who managed to walk comfortably in high heels. I was losing patience when my class had already started. Though I was mad as hell, the little lamb was silent under the knife of the slaughter. Then, another girl came out of her stall and noticed the situation. “Is someone in there?” She asked. “Yes.” She knocked the door with fierce passion: “Excuse me, someone needs to use this.” Within 10 seconds, the door was open. The person came out, she said “sorry”, but not to me, to the other girl. Though I really appreciated the help, I decided that I would never again let another person stand up for me. I have a voice of my own and sometimes I have to roar. 

I became increasingly confident and unapologetic when confronting people in similar situations.  The most memorable encounter took place when I was watching Les Miserable in the Princess of Wales Theater. During intermission, I went to the ground level where the designated accessible washroom was located. This washroom had a wheelchair sign on the door. There was absolutely no excuse. As soon as I exited the elevator, I saw a nicely-dressed lady left her line and walked toward “my washroom”. I gave myself some gas and attempted to reach it before she did. Too late, she shut the door right before my face. Everyone (all women) lining up outside of the washroom were staring at me. They were expecting a scene. All of the sudden, waiting in line with a full bladder became entertaining. On the other hand, while waiting in my line, I was thinking hard about various ways of making her the most miserable character of the play. Finally, she came out, there was this “uh-oh” expression on her face. “Sorry.” She said it sheepishly. To be fair, she meant it. I said nothing but slammed the door really, really hard in a theatrical style. So much drama, it was sassy and classy at the same time. . . 

Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with my girlfriend. She told me about her recent controversy over an accessible stall. She said that this lady came from behind and got into the accessible stall right in front of her eyes, as if she was completely transparent. “WHAT!!” Immediately, I had an image of this lousy piece of work --- high maintenance, lots of makeup, repelling amount of perfume . . . “How does she look like?” I wanted to confirm. “She is middle-age, South-Asian, probably new to the country.” It shattered my expectation. For some reason, I found myself less mad. It got me thinking, could it be possible that some people had no idea what or whom an accessible stall is actually for? Thinking back, prior to my injury, did I ever abuse an accessible stall? I used to be very ignorant about people living with disabilities and I didn’t know how much of a deal those extra spaces meant for someone who uses a wheelchair. Also, judging by the fact that I was an apathetic little bitch toward the disability community, I would say, I probably abused and misused the accessible stall without even remembering it. I was just lucky that I didn’t bump into a grudge-faced lioness waiting to tear up my day.  

Yesterday at the gym, while taking off my contacts, a woman was about to get into the accessible stall. I said: “Oh, can I use. . . I need to use it soon.” She didn’t get it right at that instant, but 3 seconds later: “Ohhh, yes, of course.” She gladly went to the stall next to it. I was more positive that most people did not intentionally want to misuse an accessible stall. Perhaps a gentle reminder of what an accessible stall is for would be equally educational and memorable.  Perhaps a lioness could settle with eating hays and grass because she’s a little lamb at heart.