There are certain social practices out there that everyone is expected to abide by, like washing your hands after using the bathroom, walking on the right hand side and holding the door for the person coming in behind you; just to name a few. But what if you can't do these things? Do you let it bother you that you are getting strange looks, or do you carry on your merry way? What if you can't see the looks, or what if you don't know you broke one of these unspoken social rules?
I got to thinking about this stuff this morning when I had to use the bathroom this morning at church. Besides the fact that I broke the "don't make strangers uncomfortable by getting them to point you to the bathroom" rule, I realised, as I left the bathroom, that the woman standing at the sink washing her hands may have been appalled that I walked out without washing my hands. Whoa. Now hold on, before you go saying "yuck" because that is what I would have thought, I had hand sanitizer that I used in the stall before emerging. It's something I started carrying with me in my purse just in case the sink area is busy. It was a solution to the "don't touch strangers when they are standing at the sink washing their hands in the bathroom" rule. Sure, the guide dogs know the "find the counter" command, but if the sink is already occupied, you may accidentally brush up against them or touch an unsuspecting victim. Sometimes I don't have my sanitizer, or I just really feel I need a sink-maybe I am sticky from eating something-I just waltz up and fumble my way to an empty basin, but usually my handy-dandy "Apples and Mint" works for me. If the sinks are completely free, or if the counter is very long and I can hear a person at one end and know that I can make it to the other without doing the "bump" dance with someone, then of course I'll wash my hands the traditional way. Then there's the joy of finding the soap dispenser and paper towels, but that is a post all unto itself.
I didn't think until today though, that people may be using paper towel to open the door after I've exited the bathroom. I'm not saying this actually occurs, but it got me to thinking about the split second judgments I make about people every day.
I like to think that I am self aware, disability aware and difference aware, but I am still human and create notions in my head about someone from a small interaction. I have always wondered what people think when Glacier and I come trotting down a hall or sidewalk on the left hand side; interrupting the flow of foot traffic. It's not something I can help. In fact, both of my dogs had left tendencies and Leader Dogs for the Blind told me it was safer not to fight them on it and I have learned that LDB was right.
I have also felt horrible when I enter a building and let a door swing shut only to realise too late that someone was standing behind me. I know most people probably recognise the dog and know that I didn't do it on purpose, but still.
From my little revelation while telling Glacier to "find the door" with my hand sanitizer safely stowed in my purse where no one could see it and thus could not have known that I used it, I decided to try to be a little less judgmental. There could be things going on that I don't even know about. I have also come to the conclusion, for the millionth time, that I cannot be concerned with what complete strangers think of my lack of hand washing, rude door slamming and purposeful left hand side walking. :)