Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Say What?

   So as you all know, I just returned from my first vacation since my disease took it’s worst progression yet. And that’s the nature of Autoimmune diseases. They progress. They change. They move. It’s like they have a mind of their own and you never know when or where they will attack next. But that’s not what I am writing about.
    Today I am writing about something that I have heard about. Something I have seen. Something friends have told me about. But something I don’t believe has ever happened to me. Until Monday August 10th to be exact. That something is “Disability-ism”. Or more appropriately; lack of disability-ism. As in being treated differently for being young and looking healthy and using an assistive device or parking permit anyway.
    Here is what happened. On the way home from San Francisco we got to the airport at approximately 10:00am for an 11:00am flight. Security you know. Can take forever. There were mobs of people there but in different areas of the airport. Our checkpoint was crowded but moving well. The main line was taking about 30 minutes.
    I approached the first guard and gave her my boarding pass and my ID. She looked at both and also at my cane and directed me away from my family. Par for the trip. The next agent directed me back towards them to an agent ahead of three lanes; one with no activity, one with the circular scanner and few people, and one with the rest of my family and the snaking line of passengers. This agent-I’ll admit not my first choice of words-directed me all the way back to the original line that was now about 25 passengers longer than when my family and I first approached.
    All I could manage to say was “What?”. He also said “What?”. I stated that I could just not stand that long. As these words left my mouth, an older couple was being directed to the line where their was no passengers at all. The woman was leaning heavily on her cane. Back to my reality where the agent decided to look me square in the eye and say, “Well, if you can’t stand, you should have gotten a wheelchair.”.
How many of you think I:
 A) smacked him with my cane?
 B) caused a scene and got taken to a private room?
 C) got myself arrested and had a nice chat with the air marshall the entire trip back to  
 D) withered him with my best Sicilian “Mama” look causing him to get a supervisor?

To some extent you are probably all right. Either way, I still ended up getting through security with a personal escort after my entire family who had absolutely no idea how that could even happen. I could barely walk that day. I am disabled after all. I even had my cane and was using it! How could someone in so much pain be treated so horribly?
    This is how: My disease is invisible. I have all my arms and legs, toes and fingers. I was wearing make up-and I am damn good with make up! I try really hard to look nice in public. Doesn’t everyone? So why are we judged for looking nice in public unless we are so obviously disabled that no one would dare question us? Am I wrong for pushing myself to walk when I can and use the cane only when I need it? (Which is more and more now.) And who gets to decide if I am wrong? Me? My family? TSA?
    I know a beautiful person-both in looks and in spirit. She has MS. She uses a wheelchair. She has no choice. But I believe if she could go back to that point in her life when she had a choice, she would not choose to use one to get through the airport in San Francisco if she didn’t need to.
    I won’t either.

Sharilynn Battaglia

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