Invisible at the Mall

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…

DSCF1083a

We ate at the Rainforest Cafe and they seated us next to the fishies.

  😀

Peace & Love…

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15 responses to “Invisible at the Mall

  1. Julie, I gotta say, reading this made my blood boil just a little. And then I thought back to how I have treated individuals with disabilities in the past. Have I been kind to them, or have I ignored them? Did I see a wheelchair or a person? I hope I would not be one of those at the mall who ignored you, but I can say that I will certainly think twice (or more) the next time I’m on the other side of a situation like this. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

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    • I hope you would not be one of those who ignored me either Simon, some friend that would make you! 😉 Honestly, I can’t imagine you ignoring anyone, but I know what you mean. This was a real eye opener for me, and it really makes me think too…

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  2. I do think it’s typical, sadly. I’ve got two wheelchair’ed friends, and they both complain of invisible, treated like mentally deficient, or being pitied smiled upon — frequently.
    I’m sorry you had this experience, Jewels. I’m glad you wrote about it, though.

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    • That’s so sad to hear about your friends in wheelchairs being treated that way. I don’t know anyone who is handicapped, and aside from periodically pushing my Mom around in the transport chair, I don’t have much experience with it. But after going through this, I am certainly more aware. In a wheelchair or not, I don’t want any person to ever feel invisible around me, it’s a terrible feeling…

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  3. I wanted to say that people with disabilities are either ignored or treated like children in push carts and spoken to as such…
    I have a friend in a wheel chair who because of this is quite rude to people who treat him either way and I say good for him…. education… at the same time why do blind people normally get spoken to in a loud voice. ??

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    • I imagine it would get quite tiresome being treated that way and I can’t blame your friend for being rude to the people who treat him so. My feelings were so very hurt by it all. Being a cheerful, friendly person, I’m used to getting positive attention from others. I wonder how long I would remain that way if I was repeatedly ignored and treated as a lesser person because of being in a wheelchair. Yes, why do people speak loudly to the blind? I would think that would be especially uncomfortable for their ears since I’ve heard the other senses are more heightened when there is a loss in another. Clearly, we’re all a bunch of freaking nitwits and need to be properly educated on how to treat people with handicaps…

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  4. WOW. What an unfortunate accidental observation of human ignorance and dismissiveness. Many people are uncomfortable around the handicapped, and I understand that, but it is no excuse to ignore ANYONE. Especially if you work in a customer service position. Sorry you had to endure this, but what an eye opener huh? It saddens me.

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    • Yes, it really was an eye opener, and so very sad. I never want to feel that way again, and want to make damn sure that I never cause another person to ever feel that way, it was profoundly hurtful. I’m thankful for the experience though because it has raised my awareness, and hopefully this raised awareness will somehow make a difference in the lives of others that I encounter going forward. I also feel deeply grateful that I am not wheelchair bound, we must never take things for granted…

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  5. Wow, what an experience! Thanks for sharing this very important message. As we’re stuck here amid all the hectic holiday prep, we may forget it should be about the people, not the packages, right?

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  6. What an odd experience that must have been. I’ll have to pay more attention to how I and others react to those in wheelchairs. It seems so odd that everyone ignored you.

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    • It was odd, I’ve never experienced anything like that before. And it was definitely due to the fact that I was in the transport chair because ordinarily whenever I’m out and about people react to me very differently and there’s always lots of friendly interaction. My daughter noticed it too, she’s quite shy and usually fades into the background a bit and isn’t used to people addressing her instead of me whenever we’re out together. She has a bit of social anxiety, and doesn’t like to attract attention to herself, but she said she rather liked getting the attention, although she felt bad for me. So it was an interesting experience for both of us.

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  7. Pingback: May Your Christmas… | Ramblings From Jewels | Nothing But The Best (We are/do/get) | Nothing But The Best (We are/do/get)

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