Dear Friendly Stranger

An Open Letter..

Dear Friendly Stranger

Dear Friendly Stranger:

I just wanted to drop you a note to remark on our wonderful encounter over the weekend.

I must apologize for my extreme rudeness. Had I not been in such a rush, I would have taken the time to answer your questions about my sex life, my disability, how I go to the bathroom and the countless others that you shouted at me in slow motion while I was shopping.

Your shock and awe at my presence was a wonder to behold and I sincerely thank you for being so proud of me for being in public. I also enjoyed the attention of all the other shoppers who stopped to look after you loudly pointed out to your children that I didn't have any legs. Had you not done that, I most likely wouldn't have even been noticed by anyone. The crowd that gathered to look at my legs and block my path gave me a pleasant opportunity to rest.

I know, it's hard to believe that I can do anything at all considering my lack of legs - something that you pointed out both verbally and physically five or six times. Although I ignored your questions, please know I did hear you as my amputations have not affected my hearing. Thank you so much for speaking as loudly as you did. It wasn't necessary however to speak as slowly as you did.

It was so nice of your children to climb onto my lap. That final touch, when your wife patted me on the head and ruffled my hair - well, you can just imagine how special I felt.

Again, I apologize for not answering you on the spot. It was unforgivably rude of me considering you took the time to crouch down and smile so sweetly at me. The baby voice was an especially nice touch.

But to answer your questions: yes, even with this wheelchair and all, I can have sex. I can also count small change, pet puppies and generally muddle my way through life. Yes I can use the bathroom, I can read and I in fact, drove myself to the store. No, I don't know the food bank hours; I don't live in a hospital; I don't know Lennie down the street who "gimps around town" and pardon me, but I do not care at all about the time you fell out of the hayloft and had to ride in the wheelbarrow for a week.

I do have a job (unlike yourself, but good luck with that), and thank you for the tips on how to get "sodapop" using Food Stamps, but I pay my own bills.

And although you didn't ask, my name is Kimberley.


PS. One of my biggest pet peeves is personal questions from strangers. Strangers who stop you in public, demand answers to the most intrusive, rude questions and actually stand there and expect an answer. Lately it's been non-stop demands for answers from people who "friend" me and then incessantly send chat requests with the same things over and over again.. Hi hun, what happened to your legs.. Hello.. Hello.. HELLO WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR LEGS.. HELLO ARE YOU THERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR LEGS.. HUN.. YOUR LEGS!! WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM???? In caps, with multiple question marks and exclamation points, presumably to indicate the urgency of their need for this information.

It's not really the actual questions that bother me; it's the expectation of a response - the absolute certainty that I will tell this person whom I've never met the personal details of my disability, simply because they asked.

You can tell by their tone of voice and their stance that the thought of their actions being rude never even crosses their minds. Sometimes, they'll even try to entice me into telling by commiserating with me... "I know what it's like, I had to use one of them things for two days back in 79¨... uh huh.

But they truly expect an answer and then they're offended when I don't comply. Why? Because they don't see me as an equal and a person deserving of courtesy, that's why. In fact, I don't think they see me as a person at all, but just as "disabled".

I'm not referring to children who point at my chair or my monoski and ask what it is, or even adults who come up and ask an informed question like the brand name of my chair, for example. Those I answer, no problem.

Now I do know a few people with disabilities who don't mind being asked intimate questions in public and offer an answer. To them it's about educating people... offering a lesson of sorts. And I totally agree with that. It is about teaching a lesson, but which lesson is where we differ.

I think most people already know that seatbelts save lives, and drinking and driving don't mix, and that diving into the shallow end of a pool is dangerous. They shouldn't need me to prove to their kids that real life happens and people get injured. To view us as a resource without feelings and without boundaries, to be used to teach their kids a life lesson, is wrong.

It's my opinion that others' rudeness should not be rewarded with common courtesy on my part. Invading my privacy for no other reason than to satisfy idle curiosity is not permissible.

Would these same inquiring minds ask an overweight person: "Hey, why are you so fat?" Would they ask a bald guy: Where's your hair? Would they ask a woman they don't know: Are those real? Or how about "Hey baby, does the carpet match the drapes?" Of course not. But asking personal things along those same lines to someone with a disability is ok? In my opinion, no it's not! My strategy? Ignore them. No answers, no reward for rudeness. Just a simple life lesson, courtesy of me.

When a stranger asks me a personal question, I respond with "Why do you want to know?" and then with "oh" whatever their answer may be. Then I turn away. It's rude to ask personal questions of anyone you don't know including people with disabilities. To answer them would be to accept their placement of me and other people with disabilities on the lower rungs of the social ladder. I'll decide where my place is, thank you. Call me rude but my personal business is none of theirs.