Us and Them? Really?

Goulburn Shopping Centre, 11 am last Tuesday. I’m waiting for someone to vacate the disabled toilet. I see a dim form approach the frosted glass door and as it slides open my suspicions are confirmed: an able-bodied person.

As he steps out he looks down at me (I’m on my small electric scooter), says, ‘Sorry!’ and starts to move away down the corridor.

‘Wait,’ I say. ‘Did you really need the disabled toilet?’

He looks a bit wary. ‘Yep, the Gents was full. I couldn’t wait.’

He’s middle-aged, quite short and bow-legged, with a number-four-all-over haircut and one of those little, trim moustaches. I should have let it go. But I’d been discussing this recently with my friend JB, able-bodied people using disabled toilets with no apparent reason. I admitted to JB that I usually just rolled my eyes but JB told me she looks them up and down and says, ‘Really?’

I sit up straight and raise an eyebrow. ‘So you thought you’d make me wait instead, did you?’

He pauses, then comes back and leans over me, his index finger in my face.

‘Oi. Do you have a disabled parking permit?’

‘Yes …’

‘And do you sometimes park in non-disabled spaces?’

‘Yes, of course …’ Where’s this going?

He was triumphant. ‘So there you go! You buggers park in our spaces, we use your toilet. Same thing!’

Our spaces. Our spaces?

‘Well, mate,’ I said, ‘You never know your luck. You might be in a head-on on the highway tomorrow, end up a quadriplegic, then you can use our parking spaces and our toilets. Have a good life!’ And I glided into the toilet, the door sliding closed behind me.

No, of course I didn’t say that. But I wish I had. He was still between me and the door so I mumbled something inane and he stomped off, swearing.

Our spaces. I’m imagining ‘Them’, Team Able, Rest-of-World if you like, facing off against ‘Us’ on our walkers, scooters and wheelchairs. And we’re vastly outnumbered. When did it become about Us and Them?



4 thoughts on “Us and Them? Really?”

  1. I dont know Jen but I think it has always been about us and them although the us and the them changes. who is in and who is out? it is a marker of our society and the lack of care for each other and the privileged assumed by people . going out with elsie ( cerebral palsy and visually impaired ) and the guide dog gives me a taste of the difficulty in negotiating the world. the heavyness of the doors the steps the twist and turns and the uneven surfaces not to mention peoples blind spots and lack of sensitivity to differences. until a link is made of our sameness a link that inspires respect we are going to see the us and them the have and the have nots play out. brave you Jen for saying something.

  2. one needs to remember it is a little window into there life, not very caring, a bit sad really,you get back what you put in.

  3. It’s like the able bodied kids and mostly men that are too lazy to go down stairs to the loos at the Kinema picture theatre.
    They even push past almost knocking one to the ground or rush in front of elderly people and disabled folks wanting to use the disabled accessible toilet upstairs.
    They might even murmur, ‘ I’ll just be a sec’ as if that excuses their rudeness.
    They’ve obviously never had to help pick up an elderly person who didn’t cocider they were entitled to use the upstairs loo, who has fallen on the stairs going down to the loos.
    Makes me mad

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