This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

by Phillip Parris

The other day I heard my father growling like a bear in the next room. Now, this is not an unusual occurrence for my father. He usually has the tendency of calling me into the living room only to immediately tell me to leave, “Move! Yur standin’ in front of the TV!” I can’t help but snicker each time he makes such a comment, because I’ve never actually stood in front of anything. I usually wheel past the television and park behind the couch out of the way. He then replies, “Where ya goin’? I’m trying to tell you something.”

But this time was different, he actually wasn’t growling at me. He was growling for the sake of growling. Not even growling really, more like wincing in excruciating pain. It sounded as though the bear had finally been shot and was crying out in pain with his last breath. Although I wasn’t summoned, I made my way to the living room to see what all the commotion was about. My father was squinting his eyes, gritting his teeth, and grabbing his shin in pain. After assessing the situation I soon realized this bear was just having his typical leg cramp. I simply chuckled and told the crying old man to “walk it off.” He rocked himself up out of the recliner and made his way into the kitchen to grab a banana. The potassium always seemed to help with his leg cramps. I personally think the big guy just likes bananas. I should probably start calling him a gorilla instead of a bear.

After telling my father to “walk it off” I couldn’t help but think that this is a luxury a disabled person doesn’t have. When a disabled person, like myself, has a leg cramp, we can’t walk it off. So I thought, “what do the disabled do in such occurrences?” I came to the conclusion, that we “roll with it.”

A couple of years ago I crossed paths with a black cat. Now I’m not one to believe in such silly superstitions, but my nurse insisted on dodging this black cat at all cost. We were driving home from the store when the black cat decided to cross the road. Coming from a middle-class family, my father decided that it wasn’t necessary to install restraints for my wheelchair. When my nurse slammed the brakes to keep from making the cat roadkill, my wheelchair turn into a 300 pound weapon of mass destruction. I was plummeted into the back of the front driver seat. After peeling myself off the back of the driver’s seat, all I could do was laugh. There was nothing I could do about the pain so I decided to “roll with it”. The accident happened on a Friday night and the orthopedic clinic didn’t open until Monday. When the doctor entered the room with the x-ray in hand, he said, “It doesn’t look good. It seems that every bone in your right foot has been crushed.” I chuckled with a sarcastic reply “So, tell me Doc will I ever be able to walk again?” The reality was that my leg was not going anywhere, nor was my pain. I decided to roll with it.

Now these two coined phrases do not end with the concept of pain. They can be applied in almost every aspect of life. Again, the beast was unleashed and he was on a warpath. The gorilla was working in the yard, hanging in a tree with a saw in hand, when a nosey neighbor confronted him about how his work had not been pre-approved by the Homeowners Association. Now, what sane man has the balls to approach a gorilla hanging in a tree with a saw, beats me. This was a big mistake. I could hear the grumble of the gorilla from inside the house. “Honey, get my gun!” The neighbor scurried off our lawn in shear fear of the mad beast. My father was not done though. He wanted to get pre-approved. He made his way into the house and headed for the gun safe. After several attempts of trying to break the combination, I soon realized why they call it a gun safe. It keeps the gun out of the hands of a very angry person. Therefore, keeping the victim safe. While my father was still red faced, out of breath, and making his way to the front door, I approached him with the comment, “walk it off.” It seemed to have worked because he went back to hedging the lawn.

I later realized that a person with a disability doesn’t have the privilege of bludgeoning someone to death out of sheer anger. Instead of using brute force we generally rely on our wit as our weapon of choice. We usually roll with the situation.

Any person with a disability can tell you that we get noticed more than the average celebrity in public. Now I know that people are supposed to be taught not to stare at an early age, but let a disabled person stroll through a mall and see how many heads will turn. Does this make me angry? No, I’ve learned to roll with it. When someone stares, I cock a sly smile and simply stare back at them. After about thirty seconds or so the person will look away in embarrassment and walk off rather quickly.

At the end of the day, it was easy to see that disabled people express emotion “cognitively”  whereas the able bodied people express emotion “non-cognitively”. Therefore, I conclude that the able bodied people are actually mentally incompetent in stressful situations.