With an arm in a sling, and still limited in movement, I am reminded of a conversation in semantics I had with Celeste at Home Depot. We were in the paint department where the two sisters were examining about 78 color chips of green. Since the risers on the long staircase were scuffed it seemed a good decorating idea to paint them pale green. While they were discussing the merits of pale against paler, Celeste and I discussed the changing language to describe one’s infirmity. This was a week before my accident.
>One, of course, never refers to an unfortunate as a cripple. Shades of Dickens – how obsolete. But wasn’t poor Tiny Tim a cripple? No, no, the description grew kinder. I forgot the progression, "disabled, handicapped,"and now Celeste tell me that even "physically challenged" has been challenged by her friend who insists that although she cannot climb the stairs, she is not physically challenged in any other way and rejects that description.
A woman, leaning on her shopping cart, examining yellow paint chips, apparently was listening to our discussion of the politically correct way to address a physical flaw. “Yes,” she said, “I know.” Her left eye twitched to its own private rhythm, her cheek played an accompaniment. Her smile held a steady beat, modulating the cacophony of her face.She said, “I can’t walk. This cart? It’s my walker. I can’t stand up without it. Which one of you has a problem?” I said, “Neither, we were just talking in general.” Celeste said, “My girlfriend. She doesn’t like the words that are used.”
The lady said, “I don’t care what words they use. I am all of those words. I have no problem with any of those words. That’s what I am.” Pause. “What’s the matter with your girlfriend?” Celeste said, “She has no legs.” I think Celeste made that up to make the lady feel better.
At that moment our party wheeled up a cart full of paint cans and accessories. We bid goodbye to the lady, and I looked at the yellows in her hand and said, “Can’t make a mistake with any of those, yellow is so cheerful.” She said, “Every room in my house is a different color. No yellow yet.”
Many hours later, the newly painted green risers looked charming, I thought. What do I know. They both hated it and decided to go back to the original white.
As for my poor crippled arm which is slowly healing – extended I can now raise it waist high – after reviewing the descriptive words, I would say the politically correct word for my injury is: Inconvenient..