Have you ever felt invisible? I never really have. Until yesterday.
I had a strange experience while at the mall yesterday with my daughter and it has me feeling a bit contemplative.
Ordinarily, whenever I go out anywhere I’m used to actively interacting with the people I encounter along my way. I tend to be a bit outgoing in my personality and so I usually engage in conversation with just about every person I come in contact with. I genuinely like people and I enjoy feeling a sense of connection with others. Some days, of course, if I’m more up in my head, out on a mission to accomplish a 101 tasks in a day, or just plain crabby, I may be less conversational while interacting with people, but there is still usually eye contact and a friendly exchange that takes place.
But yesterday I felt invisible to nearly every person I came in contact with at the mall. You see, it wasn’t just any mall that I went to, it was The Mall of America. The Mall of America is a HUGE fricken mall, and because of it’s massive size it requires quite an effort to traverse. Because my knees have been giving me so much trouble lately, we decided to bring along my Mom’s transport chair for my daughter to push me in to help save me from all of the walking. A transport chair is similar to a wheelchair, but lighter in weight and maneuverability.
I am nowhere near disabled, and I felt a bit self conscious being pushed around in it, but I figured what the heck, if it helps, why not use it. My daughter felt a little self conscious pushing me in it as well and didn’t feel entirely confident, but it was her idea (the mall and the transport chair) so she toughed it out like the trooper that she is, and we made an adventure out of it. She nearly crashed it a few times and we laughed at our combined awkwardness. “Those crazy women drivers!” 😉
But here is the invisible part… at nearly every store we went into, the sales people didn’t even acknowledge me, it was like I wasn’t even there. They greeted only my daughter, told her about the various sales that they were having, asked her if there was anything they could help her find, it was absolutely bizarre! I felt totally invisible. I have never experienced anything like that before. I didn’t like it. 😦 And it makes me wonder… is this how disabled people are often treated? Is it because we’re taught as children not to stare at people in wheelchairs, so then we avoid looking at them at all? Is it because people in wheelchairs make us feel uncomfortable in some way? Was it because I was giving off a different energy because I was feeling a little self conscious about being in a wheelchair? I don’t think it was that ~ a little self conscious or not, I was still being my usual friendly self and I was in an excellent, joyful mood. It was all just so blatant, I was completely disregarded, like I didn’t even exist. One sales person did say the words “Hi ladies” when we came in, but she didn’t look at me when she said it, and then she proceeded to tell my daughter about all of the special promotions the store was having without as much as a glance my way. I’m not used that. At all. The whole experience was so disconcerting.
Interestingly, when we sat down to lunch, our waiter, unaware of the transport chair that was folded up against a wall, was treating me like “business as usual.” Meaning that the majority of the interaction that took place while he was serving us was between he and I. Maybe he knew I was in charge of paying the tab and was looking for a good tip, or maybe being a waiter, he’s used to dealing with people who are always seated anyway and so even if he had noticed the transport chair it wouldn’t have mattered. I don’t know, but it was interesting to notice that I was back to existing and no longer invisible while not seated in the transport chair.
I like to think of myself as a socially aware person, but all of this made me realize that I want to be sure that whenever I encounter a person in a wheelchair, I acknowledge them so they don’t ever feel invisible like I did. It was a terrible feeling…
Despite my feeling invisible to the people at the mall, my daughter and I had a truly wonderful and memorable time together, and my heart is filled with gratitude. ♥
Hold close those you hold dear.
Oh, and let me share the one photo I took while we were there. It’s a bit blurry because he was swimming…
We ate at the Rainforest Cafe and they seated us next to the fishies.
Peace & Love…