A coffee shop in Virginia is advertising reduced prices for customers who use more words when placing their orders particularly please and thank you. I admit I initially shared this story on my Facebook (ban is finally lifted) from the perspective of a former waitress and barista. I’ve dealt with rude entitlement for dollars an hour with no power to demand respect. The first image in my mind was of a haughty customer busy on their cell phone, pausing only to bark the words “small coffee” at an employee.
But my wonderful varied disabled friends immediately noted the ableism in this pricing scheme. One called it a “social anxiety tax” and another pointed out how it targets people with limited verbal capacity. Others simply said they would never go there. It reminded me that it isn’t polite to be disabled.
Think of the convention that men must stand when a lady enters the room, or all must stand for their social better. Think of how rude it is seen to remain seated for the national anthem or the Lord’s Prayer. Now consider how much harder (or even impossible) it is for some to rise and sit, rise and sit, over and over again.
Slouching or having poor posture is considered disrespectful. Slurred or mumbled speech is too. Stuttering is taken as a personal affront, despite being a benign neurological difference. Nervous habits and stims aren’t proper, no matter how harmless.
A polite handshake is a firm handshake, no muscular weakness or nerve damage allowed. Being polite means being quiet and still. Having ADHD is not polite. Crying in public is improper. Propping up your feet is rude. Being disabled in public is offensive.
I do think there’s a value in being considerate and respectful. I am increasingly convinced that politeness doesn’t mean those things.