Restaurant 101 – The Gimp Edition

A recent post at Feministe got me thinking about my own restaurant experiences, and how, as a person with a disability, I am treated by restaurant staff.

Let’s start from the beginning.

If we’re going to a place we have never been to, we must check if it is accessible.  EVERY time we forget to do this, or we assume that the place will be accessible, the restaurant ends up having two flights of stairs or narrow doors.  Sometimes, the staff will tell us they are accessible “but we have a few steps out front that we can help you with.”  Assholes don’t even know how much my chair weighs.  Plus, HELLO, dangerous! Lawsuits!

If I can get into a restaurant, I will either not receive a menu (because I am just at the restaurant to look at the decor, evidently), or the waiter asks if we all want menus.  Or they ask if I need a children’s menu.  I’m almost certain that able-bodied folk do not experience this phenomenon, and this menu game is only done for those who look gimpy.  I know, I know, I should ask for a menu if I don’t get one, right? But no, I just borrow my mom’s.  I don’t feel like dealing with it.  Bad activist moment.

Now, I am ready to order.  My mom recites my order for me (bad activist moment #2) because I’m not loud enough.  Sometimes I order myself.  I dunno, it’s also kind of a social anxiety thing.  I have trouble doing simple things like answering the phone or asking someone in a store to help me – so ordering food is freaky for me; I inherited this from my dad.  Either way, the waiter hardy ever addresses me personally.  This is the plight of many a gimp – the old “talk to the aide/parent/nurse, not the actual person” trick.

When my food arrives, my drink is sometimes in a child sippy cup.  No joke.  This happens more at chain restaurants like TGI Friday’s or Ruby Tuesdays.  I don’t order from the children’s menu.  I know I look young, but good god, I don’t look THAT young.  But I guess they think people with disabilities are all child-like and love brightly-colored cups with clowns on them and gigantic purple straws.  Who knows.

I can’t say this stuff happens at every restaurant, but it occurs at least 80% of the time.  I’ve learned to just deal with it – I shouldn’t HAVE to, but if I protested/corrected every restaurant or waiter that expressed ableism towards me, I would get burnt out.  So, when I encounter these moments, I just think in the back of my mind that I am doing other things to fight ableism – other things that are more creative and empowering to me.  Like this blog.