Friday, March 4, 2011

Scooter Wars

There’s a been a bit of drama going on over a blog post about obese people using scooters in Walt Disney World (which I’m not linking to). The post itself bugged me a little (for various reasons), but it wasn’t the thing that got me fired up the most. As usual with “controversial” posts, it’s the comments where people lose their fucking minds. They take it as a license to completely bash people, based on their attributes or politics or beliefs. In this case, their weight.

Admittedly, I have a hard time staying neutral on the issue, because I am fat. I have been fat and I have been thin and I can tell you without a doubt that people treat you better, with more respect and kindness, when you are thin. So reading the horrible comments about disgusting fat people was pretty hurtful.

But I don’t want to lose sight of the point here. I understand where the author was coming from with the post. To me, at least, the problem isn’t fat people using scooter unnecessarily, but anyone using a scooter unnecessarily. I’m going to pretend that the original post had nothing to do with obesity and give my take on the scooter use in Disney World.

I’m not going to lie to you – I have had occasional thoughts like the author's – I’m human after all, and I get frustrated. And frustration often makes us irrational, angry and yes – mean. I’m no exception. The first time we took the kids to WDW, it was after mr b had a devastating accident. Although he had mostly recovered, he still had a hard time being on his feet for long periods of time. And walking around WDW for five or ten (or more) miles every day definitely was out of the question. The day we arrived, by the time we checked into our resort and hopped a bus, we didn’t arrive at the Magic Kingdom until around noon. Our first stop was the scooter rental. Unfortunately, on many days the scooters are all rented by that time, so we couldn’t get one. Mr b could have gotten a wheelchair, but he had spent quite enough time in one and had no intention of starting again. So he decided to tough it out and head back to the resort early if he got too uncomfortable.

Because of the fact that we couldn’t get a scooter, I noticed how many of them were around. And yes – like the author of that blog, I got frustrated. While there were some people who were elderly or clearly handicapped, it seemed like the majority of those using them were folks who didn’t really need them. Some were seemingly healthy adults. Some were groups of giggling teens piling on and taking turns. And yes – some were obese. And I’m not proud to admit it, but I got mad. I found myself thinking unkind things about these people. In my defense, it wouldn’t have bothered me except for the fact that if these people hadn’t needlessly been using them, my actually handicapped husband would have one. But it’s no excuse.

The next day, we got to Epcot early and there were scooters available. Mr b got one and we headed into the park. He never once used the handicapped entrance – he had no intention of going to the front of the line. There are people who need to, but he isn’t one of them. Standing in a line wasn’t a big deal – it was getting from line to line that was the problem for him, so he’d park it, get in line with the masses and then get back on the scooter to head to the next attraction. However, what he thought was a good thing seemed to work against him. People would see him walking (seemingly) normally, then getting on a scooter which he obviously (to them) didn’t need. And they would give us dirty looks, and made under-their-breath (but still audible) comments about “lazy people.”

It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation – people that saw us heading from ride to ride assumed we were going to cut in their line. People who saw us park the thing and get in the line to wait looked at him with barely concealed disgust. It was obvious that both groups thought he was just lazy.

And that is why the kind of judgment going on over on that blog is dangerous. Because no matter how someone looks to you, no matter how normal, or how healthy, or yes - how fat - they look – you don’t ever really know the reasons behind their “lazy” use of the scooter. Many handicaps aren’t visible. Maybe that person in the scooter had a physical impairment that you can’t see – like mr b. Maybe they have severe, debilitating breathing problems, or a heart defect. Maybe they are weak from radiation or chemotherapy. Maybe that child has autism and can’t wait in lines like your child. Maybe that stroller isn’t actually a stroller, but a kind of stroller/wheelchair that makes it easier for the parents/child to get around. And any of the things I just mentioned can happen to a thin OR a fat person. But just because they are fat, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect and kindness you would give to their thin counterpart.

And yes – maybe they are just lazy. I know firsthand that it is frustrating to watch an entire family on scooters (complete with kids piled on) bypass the line and get great seats while you and yours wait in the long, hot, miserable (and sometimes stinky) lines. But I made the decision then and there to not be the person who gets upset about it. I decided to see those people and instead of feeling like I am missing out on something, to feel thankful that I am missing out on whatever pain or discomfort or ridicule they are experiencing. And I think I’m a better person for it.

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Magpie said...

My mother was one to get bent out of shape about people parking in handicapped spots. She'd see them and call them out on it, and usually she was right to do so.

One day, though, there was this perky young woman scampering out of a minivan. My mother lit into her, and the woman opened the back door of the car to reveal a severely, obviously handicapped, wheelchair dependent child. She slunk away.

Branden said...

Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I have a friend, who looks seeming normal. However at anytime, and with alarming frequency, she her joints will lock, in whatever position they are in and she will fall. She also has trouble getting moving and stopping moving.

She has trained her english lab as a service dog to help break her fall and assist her up.

Standing and not moving is the worst, she can't stand in lines, and when she does, it is like a traffic jam because she trouble moving again. We went to an amusement park at Christmas time and the nasty, nasty comments we got because she looked fine. She wasn't but she looked fine.

Laura said...

I found your blog through your comment on Good Mom Bad Mom. I just wanted to point something out that people seem to not be understanding: Being on a scooter or having a GAC (Guest Assistance Card) that gives you access to the handicap accessible entrances doesn't mean you get on the rides more quickly, most of the time you'll wait the same amount of time and sometimes you'll wait even longer.

People just assume, however, that it's some kind of magical pass to get to the frond of the line, and that's just not the case.

Bethtastic said...

We would all be better people if we could stop judging and just be thankful.

I wish the right thing to do wasn't so damn hard to do.

Right on, Gina. As usual! :)

Logical Libby said...

Right on. Less judgement, more understanding. Never think you know what is going on with someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

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mallery said...

OMG!!!! I cant believe that I even found this topic and the in-debth comments, lol. Heres how I wound up here. I was looking to see what the process is to rent a ECV at Disney because my mom who looks perfectly healthy and attractive suffers from COPD. There is no way she will enjoy the day on foot nore does her pride easily allow her to be open to the idea of being on wheels. So this is what I have decided, I have every intention of renting my mom a scooter for the day directly from Disney, I am also going to rent two more for both my partner and myself who are perfectly healthy people. My feeling is if my mother is to be on wheels then so will we. This is my way of making my mother feel less of a display and to assure that she has a great day on equal footing with the people she will be spending the day with. Do I care if it pisses people off that I am using wheels?? NO it does not. This will be $150.00 cost to me for 3 scooters for the day wich is rediculously high for a dam scooter after we pay almost $400 for one days admissions to the parks. Will I feel wrong because bitter nosey people feel I have no right to enter an attraction via a special entry?? HELL NO! If im paying that kinda money to Disney for use of a dam scooter then I will gladly take any short cut that dam scooter can get us. Am I to feel bad because Disney runs out of scooters through out the day? Hell no its not my job to care, as I am there as a customer willing to spend money in trade for a great day. people in need must arrive very early as suggested by Disney or Disney needs to purchase more scooters to rent. So people just need to shut the hell up or pay for a scooter. Mind your own business.

Foofy610 said...

We're going to Disney World at the end of November. I was recently diagnosed with severe hip arthritis. My wife really wants me to rent a scooter. Considering hip arthritis has no outward signs, and considering I'm 6'4", 388 lbs.... I have a feeling people will look at me as a "lazy fat guy".

I normally don't care what people think... but this situation is really bothering me.

Gina said...

Foofy - I don't know if you will see this or not, but here's the thing - don't worry about what people think. There will always be some fool who thinks he or she knows better, but ignore them the best you can and do what you have to do to enjoy your trip. If you are hurting, it won't be any fun.

You will still have to wait in lines most of the time (unless you can't walk at all), but it's not a big deal with the scooter to get you from place to place. Unfortunately, the idiots who rent them just to try and avoid lines ruin it for everyone.

And if you will need it every day, you might want to rent from an outside company - it will be far cheaper than renting from WDW. plus, you will have the scooter at the hotel, to and from buses (which can be a long walk), etc.

Scott said...

The scooter problem has gotten out of hand, and sooner or later, Disney needs to take a stand and limit the number of scooters allowed into the parks, before someone gets seriously injured. Having paid a lot for ones vacation doesn't justify using a scooter needlessly, because those of us who are constantly having to dodge the ridiculous number of scooters in the parks paid just as much for our vacations. It's unfortunate that so many who don't need them are using them, because it results in people feeling anger towards all of those who use them, whether they need a scooter or not.The abuse of scooters results in ride delays, transportation delays and overcrowding. I recently witnesses a couple with scooters on a Disney bus. The husband obviously had mobility issues, but the wife did not. Between the two of them, with their scooters, this couple occupied ten seats on the bus, and of course loading and securing the scooters resulted in a major delay. Not fair to the majority of us.

Barbara Eretto said...

thank you for taking the time to write your post. I will admit that yes I am fat and most days i can get around without a problem, however the last time i was in disneyworld i decided to walk and now i have two big spurs that have flared up in my feed. When the dr said they were caused by walking and putting all my wight on my feet for long periods of now when i sit in a scooter around disney i feel confident that i am doing so for my own sanity.

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