The embarrassing part of this week is buried near the end, if anyone wants to skim.
"I'm not disablist, some of my best friends/family members/coworkers/acquaintances/people I knew a decade ago or when I was in kindergarten are disabled." The highlights of getting lunch and doing errands around my Very Big Workplace:
-Weird mix of baby talk and flirtation from an employee when I ordered lunch. At least he seemed to get some of the issues, recognized I couldn't reach.
-There was a very long line and many people needed to cut through to a different part of the cafe. So everyone chose to cut in front of me rather than in front of someone standing. Because I'm just a physical object, you know. Dangerous for them because of the tight squeeze (I'm surprised no one tripped or fell over me).
-Before I could complete my transaction, young woman behind me stepped up to the counter and crowded me out. Acted surprised and upset when employee and I kept interacting. I have to pay, get my drink and number.
-The disability accessible counter was blocked with signage and advertising.
-Some people were very helpful opening doors since security had forgotten to unlock the auto-open doors (as happens 50% of the time, I need them always). But one woman was completely annoyed that she had to get up off her duff and open a door for me. Couldn't understand why I wouldn't do it myself. I did so, later in the day, when I went to a building and no one was around. But I shouldn't have, vertebrae and muscles still hurt. And it's difficult to do, to position just right to grab the handle and then to open the door without blocking it and go through it. Requires minute position adjustments and danger of smacking into glass of other double door full force. And then, once in, I really noticed the next set of doors, separated by a couple of feet from the first door. No room to reposition after you're sandwiched between the two.
-One man helped me leave a document at someone's office, but had that stupid "did my good deed for the day" face. People really overdo the emotion.
-Acquaintance whom I hadn't seen in a long time wouldn't talk to me, acted very tense.
-Various people got that, "who let her out?" look. They lost the look if someone came up to me in the hallway or in the cafe. As if I need someone else to validate my presence.
-Got a scooter leaner. Don't lean on the chair, people. I know your back hurts, too. I've been there. I'm sorry. Pain and fatigue are miserable. But don't lean, pretty please.
-Got teary and guilty reactions from some people I barely know. Guys, I felt the same way last week and you didn't show any empathy then. I felt like crying then, not now. And a gasp, and a "what happened?" Same issues as usual--you just couldn't see my disability before. Not that you can see it now.
But there are also a lot of cool/saavy people.
-I had to get a male coworker to take me to the restroom since automatic doors haven't been installed. Fortunately, it was no big deal to him or me, but I'd rather be able to take myself whenever.
-The maintenance guys came by to talk to me directly about a few modifications and to apologize that some work they thought had been done was done in the wrong place. It helps if people give them the orders, though. They said that one restroom door required 17-18 lbs of force to open; ADA allows 5 lbs of force. No wonder I had such difficulty. I had to wedge my foot in and use my elbow to shove it open--I couldn't pull hard enough with my arms and upper back. They almost ordered the automatic restroom opener on the wrong restroom, the very cramped one, because they were too afraid to go in to check it out. They did reinstall one disabled stall lock from 5 1/2 feet high to waist high; I almost don't have the heart to tell them they did it backwards (the lock is on the door and the pin on the wall, meaning I can't use it to pull the door toward me and must pull very hard at the top or bottom of the door to close it). But their efforts are a lot more than I can say for the VPs who let my requests sit on their desks for two months.
And all this in addition to trying to get all my work done and being in pain.
And I learned more about access issues and my limitations:
-There's a big bump between two abutting sidewalks that stops my scooter hard. No way around it--it's the single path to our car. I can barely get over it. I don't know how other scooter/wheelchair users have been navigating it. I had to stop, back the scooter up, and charge at it full speed ahead to get over it, kind of worried that it wouldn't work. Hurt my back when it bumped down hard again.
-I got stuck in a one-person disability bathroom. I could get in, not out. Door was behind me, can't drive and open door behind me. Arms not long enough to hold door open and back in, and creates low back strain anyway.
-I strained my back too much using photocopier too long, trying to put on my coat a few times, slamming elevator buttons as I drove past before the doors closed, slamming into furniture since even at low speed there's not close enough and there's too close, trying to hurtle at the correct elevator before the doors closed again, trying to close doors behind me (way more difficult than opening), trying to reach for post-its and phone and books in ways I normally wouldn't because it was too much of a pain to back the thing up and turn it around just to get one thing.
-Here's the embarrassing part: I slammed into a table so hard at someone's interview and presentation that the whole table slid forward by about a foot. Nerve wracking for me and job candidate. I had almost asked someone to trade places, but no, I had to try to go around to a seat out of the way. There should have been enough room to get through. I guess I got distracted. I was very, very tired at that point, especially after getting into the building myself and getting stuck in the bathroom. Some of these people I don't want to look in the face for a while. Ironically, it will take me using the scooter competently in front of them for a while to make me (and them?) forget.
I found every bump and irregularity in the sidewalk because it jars my spine. Fortunately not as much as walking does, but it increases pain in upper back a lot. Until yesterday, my upper spine had not bothered me in a while, except for loss of flexibility/motion. I've lost four pounds in the past few days. My PT was right, I am way more active in this than being stuck at home.
My stomach bothered me so much. Later in the day, I thought I need not have worried so much because I really was able to get around by myself and get some work done. The end of the day soured that thought, though.