Going to the supermarket shouldn't be a big deal. Whoever you are or whatever disability you have (or don't have), you should just be able to buy groceries and shop to your heart's content without much fuss or stares from people.
Yep, I do experience this peaceful, fuss-free grocery shopping...until it's time for me to pay and line up at the priority counter for senior citizens and PWDs.
Once, an elderly lady snapped at me and my husband when we fell in line at one of the priority counters. We were already queued up in one of the lanes. The woman kept on transferring queues, moving from one lane to another. The she stopped IN FRONT OF US, cutting us when we were queued properly.
When she stood in front of us (again, cutting us), the lane stopped moving. Meanwhile, the other priority line continued to move. Since the said elderly lady already cut us, my husband and I decided to just transfer to the other line. When we did, she snapped at us, and said sternly, "Priority!" then cut us AGAIN in this other line.
I was pissed off but I decided to just let go and be the bigger person. I smiled at her and gestured for her to stand in front me while holding my PWD ID and PWD purchase booklet. She kept starting at these while the line moved. When it was already her turn (what was supposed to be our turn), she told me, "Sige una na kayo (Go right ahead)." I shook my head, smiled, and said it's okay, she should go ahead instead.
She cut us and it was unfair, but at that moment, I felt victorious. I felt that I made a powerful point. The fact that at the end of the line (literally), the woman realized that we had as much right as she had to fall in line at the priority lane, it's enough for me.
In our subsequent supermarket trips, I saw that woman again a couple of times. I silently hoped that we wouldn't encounter her again at the priority lane. Thankfully, we didn't.
Last Sunday, there was another fuss at the Priority Lane. A group of three young women (maybe teenagers or in their early twenties) fell in line behind us. When the cashier saw them, she announced that the lane was only for senior citizens and PWDs while attending to the purchases of an elderly man who was already sitting on a chair by the counter.
After the cashier's announcement, the girls behind us laughed and started joking among themselves. "Don't worry, she's PWD (pointing to one of their friends)," one of them said. Then, they all laughed. I looked at them and I got hurt. They were making a joke about having a disability. They probably thought that the cashier's announcement was just a lame reminder.
As the line moved, we all saw that the cashier was serious. And behind the teenagers, an adult with an elderly companion fell in line. "May senior sa likod, beh, (There's a senior citizen at the back)," said the cashier from the other counter. The cashier on our priority lane was serious. When we were already one customer away from our turn, one of the girls approached the elderly man sitting on the chair (the man who paid for his purchases earlier) and whispered something.
When we were done paying, it was the group's turn. That's when I head the elderly man who was sitting tell the cashier. "Ma'am, they're with me." As my husband and I walked away from the counter, the group's purchases started getting punched and packed. The group probably went on their merry way afterwards.
This was unfair. I knew that they weren't with the elderly man. If they were, why the heck would the man pay WAAAAY ahead of them?
And to add to this, the group had the audacity to laugh at having disabilities minutes before that. Yes, for them it was a joke. And as if this wasn't bad enough, they still had the audacity to use someone who had the right to use the priority lane for their own convenience. They did this while behind them, senior citizens fell in line and waited for their turns.
I could've given them a piece of my mind. I wanted to. But I felt powerless the moment I heard them joking around about having disabilities and laughing, when other senior citizens and PWDs could've paid for their purchases earlier had these inconsiderate girls not disrupted the queue.
Until now, what happened is still playing on my mind. I am bothered. But what exactly do I need to do in this kind of situation? How should I react?
At the end of the day, I want to help people understand PWDs, especially us who have no visible signs. But I also acknowledge that there's only so much that I can do. That situation gave me pain, and when I am in pain, either a short outburst or a nuclear meltdown comes next.
Maybe the best reaction to this is to just silently bear it and walk away. It's not the best as far as educating people is concerned, but it is the best course of action for my sanity's sake. I just hope that I don't see those girls again.