Disabled for now, changed forever

An injured teacher calls on everyone to help the handicapped

Chico resident Tami Early, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Egling Middle School in Colusa, is recovering from a broken foot. “Writing this essay,” she said, “was very cathartic!”

I am wheelchair-bound for several months. While this is not an opportunity I’d like to have again, I have sure learned a lot about life in the disabled lane.

Target’s main aisles are nice and wide; however, merchandise areas are ridiculously narrow. I did my best to avoid hitting anything with the provided motorized cart, as well as making sure no one ran into me (fellow customers looked away from, over but rarely at me). I found an accessible checkout lane and gave a well-earned sigh of relief.

“You are in the wrong lane,” the cashier firmly stated as a greeting. What? The clerk stuck her index finger in the air. “You’re in the 10 items or less lane!” I craned my head in the direction of her pointed finger and saw the sign.

“Sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t see the sign.”

“Well,” the clerk snapped, “I guess since there’s no one behind you I can take you, but if someone else comes up I’ll have to stop doing you and do them.”

I felt very small right then. Three customers later I felt even smaller. Like she’d promised, she stopped my transaction each time someone else came up, pushed my stuff off to the side, and “did” them. I had 13 items.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m out of everything. Once inside WinCo, I was dubious of the success of my trip. The place was packed. As usual, fellow customers looked away from me, over me and … hey, that woman just looked at me and smiled! A man offered to get me some appealing-looking grapes that were beyond my reach, making sure I had the amount I wanted before leaving. Nice! I charged forward and went on to finish my list with the assistance of many fellow shoppers.

One day I was craving the sweet mole chips that only Trader Joe’s carries. Within seconds of entering the store, an employee was at my side ready to assist me. My own personal shopper! By the time I left the store, I felt like a queen! I was sorry to go.

Merchants, make your stores truly handicapped accessible. Organize your store so the disabled carts you thankfully provide can access your wares. Insist that your staff be friendly, helpful and bendable when an occasion for doing so arises—for all your customers.

Guess where I’ll be shopping once I’m two-footed again? And, I will be on the lookout for those needing assistance or even just a smile.