Monday, October 1, 2012

Alcohol, boundaries and wheelchairs

I never understood why people would drink more than they can handle. And I see it a lot in Gainesville. Is it really that much fun to lose dinner along with your dignity on a lawn on your way back to the car? Are the people I see at the local bars and clubs on a mission not to remember anything in the morning? Let me be clear: I'm not against drinking. From time to time I go out with friends as well. But the key to having fun is knowing your limits. I know I need to get home safely, I want to make new fond memories, not erase them- and above all, at all times I have to be respectable. The problem is, a lot of times others don't extend the same courtesy to me. I grew up in Poland. Without perpetuating any negative stereotypes I need to point out that alcohol is very present in our culture, or at least was as I remember it. But I never really drunk until I moved to Gainesville. Here, it became a thing to do when you're out and about with friends. A social lubricant if only it's a glass you hold in your hand for an hour until the ice melts. Still, having grown up in Poland I have not seen as many people acting entirely out of control as I do  in America. And it becomes a problem if they lose all boundaries and with their motor skills incredibly impaired try to approach me.

I've touched on it before in my text about safety. But it's not so much that I'm scared what they will do. I'm not in fear of getting punched or beaten. Incredibly drunk people throw all social conventions out the window. They invade my personal space enough. And there's no good way out of this, because as much as I know they mean me no harm, they're really beyond understanding that I don't appreciate it. It's bad enough that a friend who candidly admitted he's been drinking beer for 10 hours last Saturday starts to hug me and apologize for the odd things he thought he has done to me, as I tried to loosen his grip while trying to calm his crying. At least that was somebody I somewhat knew. Earlier in the week I decided to join my friends for a night of karaoking. It was quite a mistake. An older, large  man who clearly had one too many about an hour before I got there while twirling in his own world when he spotted me by the bar. He then decided I needed to dance and attempted to pool me to the floor. Or turn my chair around. Or pet me on the head. The bartender clearly didn't have the situation under control, when I turned to her asking for help. She did say "He doesn't want to be bothered" calmly and then continued to serve him. And he didn't listen. Tried multiple times, as if he didn't hear us or care or try to convince me that I should.

  I didn't want to be bothered. I didn't want to be moved. I didn't want to dance. In a situation like that I'm really powerless. If he was a little less drunk I could've reasoned with him, I could've used my wit. With somebody that drunk and heavy, I'm really out of options. My "air-light" carbon fiber titanium wheelchair flips easily  with a bit of force from the outside Some of my friends got really upset saying that if only they were there they wouldn't let this go on. If only. But they weren't. When you're in a wheelchair you can't really walk away or otherwise get further from a person that grabs you.  And no one around is interested in getting a big guy off your back. I was very upset, so I left the bar early. As I rolled home I noticed from across the street that the man was attempting to get into his car and drive it. If my phone was working I would have called the police. The oddity of this situation is that I'm sure he didn't mean to be annoying. He didn't mean to invade my personal space. I bet he'd be pretty embarrassed had he known how disrespectful he was.  I'm sure he just wanted to have fun and he tried to have others enjoy themselves as well. He probably thought: Everybody should dance. But the end result was just the same. I was stuck with a drunk person who didn't realize their own strength, who didn't act in any predictable manner, with no help from outside and no tools to defend myself.

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