When people say, "give it a try, the worst that can happen is they'll say no," what they don't understand is that 'no' is not just a word. Often when someone says 'no', especially when that 'no' is perceived as unjust, it sparks feelings of frustration, anger and indignance, and at worst can ruin your entire day.
When I asked the bus driver whether myself, my stroller and my 8 months pregnant belly could use the disabled ramp to get on the bus (this would have cost him no more than to move forward a foot toward said ramp), he said 'no'. The ramp is only for disabled persons in wheelchairs, and I am not in a wheelchair. I of course felt that the ramp is for anyone who is physically compromised, whether a struggling pregnant mum, an old person with a cane, or someone on crutches.
Have you ever seen someone on crutches bounce up a flight of steps? You'd want to pull up a seat and whip out the popcorn because that would be a performance. Yet according to Mr Jobsworth bus driver, that's exactly what the guy on crutches would need to do.
More often than not, bus drivers have been kind and allowed me use of the ramp. But this particular incidence of uncalled for jobsworth nastiness put a dent in my day, stole yet another slice out of my ever dwindling belief in the inherent goodness of humanity, and made my head so hot with anger that by the time I got home I was in tears and stuck with a throbbing headache. I have never tried to use the ramp again, and instead struggle at great risk to myself and kids and at great delay to the other passengers to hoist my enormousness up the steps. And I always think twice before leaving the house.
I will also avoid asking to use a restaurant's restroom, even though, as a heavily pregnant woman, they are not allowed to turn me away. Because when they do turn me away (or worse still pretend there is no restroom, in which case one wonders do the employees pee on themselves?), I don't realistically know how to enforce my right other than by ending up in a pointless argument with some nasty nobody who is enjoying a petty power trip.
There are days when I think, if I could live in a hole with very few needs, then I would avoid the nastiness of strangers altogether. But as a woman with children I can't do that. I have to face the world every day for their sakes. I have to teach them the meaning of the word 'no', but I also have to teach them to stand up for themselves in a world filled with nasty 'no's. My own father would advise that some people are not worth fighting with, and by that he means people like the nasty bus driver. But maybe his head doesn't get all swimmy and hot when he is dealt a petty injustice. Or maybe he is wiser than me.
Interestingly when someone I know says no, it doesn't irreparably crack my psyche. I wonder if anyone else feels that 'no' is so much harder to take from strangers. Perhaps because strangers mean it with malice, whereas persons we know tend to have a valid reason that we can sooner or later come to respect. Unless they are genuinely mean or have lost their minds, in which case they become added to that sad list of 'people I used to call friends.'
Either way, how does one defend against the unjust 'no', enjoy a full life and not become bitter, cynical and hateful of strangers? How can one remain charitable and kind, when strangers are our worst enemy?
I don't have the answer to that. If I did, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops every day! All suggestions are greatly welcomed...