Wednesday, June 25, 2014

About "The Other Half..."

When I was a kid, my parents had their share of hard times -- food stamps and working multiple jobs to make ends meet that had never even seen one another. We'd drive around some of the more affluent neighborhoods and joke about "how the other half lived." I'm not quite sure who this "other half" was. Though today, it seems they've been reduced to about an "other eighth."

Anyway,  this past week I've had the opportunity to see how -- let's simply say -- "other folks" live. By no means would ever presume to know what it is like to try to function with a debilitating illness or physical condition day after day. I have however, gotten a glimpse of what it is like to struggle through a day at work, wrangle the voicemail system at the disability office, and navigate the bank drive-thru. With barely a voice. It ain't easy. I had high hopes. This is the Age of Technology. I should be able to order a pizza, buy movie tickets, make an appointment with my podiatrist and never talk to a living soul, right? Wrong. I am beginning to realize how dependent we are on voice and it is both scary and encouraging.

I answered the phone at my desk yesterday morning. I introduced myself as usual. Nothing. "Hello," I whispered harshly into the phone. The caller asked for a co-worker who had left for the day. "What?! I can't hear you!" he barked. I repeated myself. "Can't I speak to someone who can talk?!"

Just let that sit there for a second. Some people deal with this kind of ignorance daily. I was appalled. In 2014, with diversity, and corporations saturated with multiple types of sensitivity training, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and my employer especially -- a mega-million dollar sponsor of United Way and other similar organizations... Has this idiot been living under Stonehenge for the last four thousand years? Needless to say, eventually the call was dropped.

The reality is, despite Skype, we still want to hug our loved ones. No matter how many pictures we Instagram, hanging out with our friends is preferred. We can text all we want, but we still want to see Aunt Lisa's expression when we announce our engagement. And I'm going to take a moment to give this jerk from yesterday the benefit of the doubt and say he is so reliant on what is touted as being an archaic form of communication -- the telephone -- that he lashed out at me because of his inability to get his point across otherwise. Scary and disturbing how we treat one another -- even those with "disabilities", ones generally thought to be "protected."

But encouraging, if only because it shows how far we've not come. We are not driven by computer chips and binary programs. We are not simply responding to data and functions entered into a hard drive by some "big computer programmer" in the sky. We are thinking, feeling, and in need of community -- even in this Age.

Although admittedly, it'd be nicer if some of us thought before they spoke!

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