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No Thank You!

and other foreign phrases
Published: 06 January 2010
I love words.

Three in particular have considerable power, and depending on the situation and who says them, can have profound effects on the person on the receiving end of them.

Even when they're interspersed with other words, you still get the basic underlying intent.

What are these magic words you ask?

"No, thank you."

"Would you like some more cake?" "No, thank you."

"How about some tea?" "No, thanks, I'm fine."

"Can I get that for you?" "No, thank you, I've got it."

See how succinct and decisive they are? So why is it that some people can't accept those words when they come from someone with a disability?

Friendly Stranger: "Can I give you a hand?" Me (still in improv mode) - "No thanks, we've got four already."
True story: One night, after an improv class, my buddy Dan and I were loading our wheelchairs into his car when a young couple walked past us to their own vehicle. We could hear the young lady telling the young man in a slightly urgent voice to come over and help us. Taking her advice he walked over and the conversation went like this:

Friendly Stranger: "Can I give you a hand?" Me (still in improv mode) - "No thanks, we've got four already."

FS: - "Uummm, are you sure?" Dan, giggling uncontrollably at the speed of my wit manages to spit out "No, really, we've got it."

The Friendly Stranger is no longer smiling. He's standing there looking back and forth between us and his girlfriend and after a second or two of uncomfortable silence (for him) gets visibly agitated and walks away.

We finish loading our chairs and ourselves. As we were driving away, the young couple pulled up beside us and the girlfriend blurts out "We were just trying to help, you didn't have to be such assholes."

Dan and I still in improv mode pass it off as anal crabs (currently regarded as able bodied) without a sense of humor.

A few months later another incident:

I'm halfway up an escalator holding on to the railings when someone grabs me and tips me backward. I barely keep my grip and look behind me to see a man holding my chair telling me "It's okay, I've got you."

The top lip is coming fast and I know he's going to try and lift my back wheels up and tip me out so I say "Let go of my chair please." He says again, "no, it's okay, I've got you."

Now I KNOW it's going to be bad so I start shouting at him "Let go of me!" The man finally realizes I mean in and lets go, dropping me one step before the top lip. I regain my control and just barely make it off safely.

And most recently: I'd just finished grocery shopping and had everything loaded. I stood up, propped myself against the bumper and was lifting my chair into the back of my truck when along comes this well dressed woman who says "Let me help you with that."

With the situation completely under control, I smiled at her, said "No thanks, I've got it" and then turned back to finish loading my chair. Well, the next thing I know I'm off balance, desperately trying to stay upright, having a tug of war over my chair with this woman whose assistance I had just politely declined.

"It's okay", she said with a fierce look of determination on her face, "I don't mind" completely oblivious to the fact that she was forcing her will on me. "Well, I do mind," I said.

I regained my balance, got my chair in my truck, looked at the woman and said loudly and firmly "I said NO!" She walked away in a huff. Seconds later she pulled up behind me, said "I was just trying to help, you bitch" and drove away.

And based on my own experiences, it would seem that some people actually think we're not allowed to use the word "NO".
It made me wonder.. why did these people get angry at my refusal of their "help"? And why did they feel they had the right to chastise ME for THEIR bad behavior?

I think there's still a segment of society that has no intention of letting go of their outdated notions of people with disabilities being helpless and not able to speak for ourselves.

It's disrespectful to force "help" on anyone. But they don't see that. They see me as not being properly grateful for their intrusion.

And based on my own experiences, it would seem that some people actually think we're not allowed to use the word "NO".

The reality of this is chilling. Granted the first incident was verbal but the others had a very real potential for physical injury. In my case, the "help" was simply aggravating - in the end there was no damage done - but many other people aren't that lucky. I know of instances where individuals were seriously injured by the actions of intrusive strangers. A dear friend died as the result of one.

I realize that I'm more independent than some, and I understand that those who need help are quite thankful for the well intentioned assistance of strangers - who OFFER and then wait for acceptance of that offer before they impose themselves on us. We all can use a little help sometimes, and to those strangers, I say "thank you" on behalf of those whose lives you've made a little easier. Mine included.

To those who think my right to say "no" is at their discretion, I say this. "When I say "No thanks, I've got it," I mean it. But thanks for asking.