Friday, January 16, 2009

I don't generally send food back at restaurants, even if it's totally wrong, or cold, or gross. I would never call someone on butting in line, or shush someone at the movies, or encroach on any ones personal space if I could help it.
But as I mature, I'm getting better at Notes.
On Tuesday I watched Charlotte be lifted onto the school bus in her little red wheelchair. When the doors closed, I walked back down the lane to my open garage. I used to stand awkwardly by the side of the bus, on tip toe, trying to see inside as the secured the wheelchair to the floor and made sure Charlotte was buckled it. Since I've gotten used to the bus, since it's gotten cold, and since I have a new baby, I don't wait anymore.
On Tuesday, I was about to climb the three stairs into my house, when I heard tires screech and rapid quickfire horn honking. I turned to see one of my neighbors, not one I know, pulled up to the side of the school bus and leaning on her horn. The bus was blocking the exit to our little lane, as the snow banks make it difficult to bring down the wheelchair lift. She kept the horn blaring for a good 15 seconds while I stood dumbfounded. I could not believe someone would be such a jerk. As the bus lurched forward I sorely regretted not running towards the car yelling and swinging my fists. My blood began to boil.
I quietly walked inside and sat on the corner of the couch, staring straight ahead and seething. I imagined taking a crow bar to the girls windshield. I imagined slapping her across the face and driving my car through her garage door. I imagined Charlotte looking around wildly, frightened by the blaring horn just feet from her head, imagined her crying the bus aides trying to comfort her.
It should be ILLEGAL, I thought, to honk at a school bus.
I got about to writing a note.
I started over.
"You are a terrible person. You are going straight to hell."
"Please do not honk at my child's school bus. She is in a wheelchair and it take a moment to buckle her in safely. I'm sorry you had to wait a minute."

I taped the note to her garage.

The next day I was discussing it with Amanda over lunch at the Olive Garden. We were calling the honking girl names and shaking our heads in disgust.
"You know what," I said "I'm just trying to assume she is a nice girl who was late for work and didn't realize what she was doing. But I hope she got home, read that note and cried her eyes out for shame. That way I'm not so angry."

On Thursday morning the bus pulled way, way down the street past the garbage cans and past our driveway, and I hurried down the sidewalk pushing Charlotte as she laughed and tried to kick her shoes off. As the bus driver tried to crunch down the snow with her boots, she handed me a note from her supervisor:

"Sharon, I got a call today from a girl who said she honked at your bus on Stella Vie yesterday. She was very apologetic and said she thought the bus was empty and just parked. Of course she was also late for work and had a rough morning. Seriously, she was crying and said she was so, so sorry, and wanted you to tell mom that she is very sorry. She was sobbing by the time we hung up. Just wanted to let you know."

"Oh my goodness." was all I said.
"It's the first apology I've ever gotten" Sharon the bus driver said, "and I get honked at a lot."

I took some cookies over to the girls house and left it by the front tire of her car. I went home and walked around my kitchen, thinking that she really should have came over to apologize directly to me, or written me a note, or something. This is ridiculous.
I went back out to go knock on her door, and tell her face to face that everything was okay. But the car was gone, as was the note and the cookies.
I think about how I would feel if I found out I had honked at the bus full of disabled kids and a mother was standing just yards away to witness it. A mother who lives next door to me. I would be so ashamed and probably a little suicidal. I would cry for hours and remember the shame for the rest of my life.
I hope the girl is okay. I'm a little broken hearted for her.


Chris and Laura said...

Good for you!!! I never have the guts to do any of those things, even write notes. You've inspired me to be stronger.

Shannon said...

Way to go Erin! It's so true that unless people are reminded of things like that- a lot of times they just plain don't think about it. I know I have been called on my stupid things many times... I'm glad that you got an apology though- so many times it seems that people with disabilities are the ones making allowances for other people instead of the other way around.

Amanda said...

I still think the crow bar idea was a good one. Or, my idea, the eggs or rocks. But, that's why you are a good person and I am, as you wanted to say to the mean, honking girl, "going straight to hell". Please take care of my child in heaven.

Dawn said...

I just came across your blog and I've been reading your story backwards.

I know your Charlotte is in heaven now and I hope you don't mind my commenting here.

I read this post and I'm sitting here with tears running down my face. I have a daughter with Trisomy 9p. She is very medically fragile but we've managed to keep her here for 20 years so far.

I do not know how many times I've felt that same anger and still do that you described here. I've never said anything, I've just bottled it up inside. Now I know there is a better way and I can't thank you enough for sharing your journey.

I know how very much your Charlotte is still loved and now missed. I want people to see the sweet spirit of my daughter and not the seizures or the drool.

Please know that you have touched my heart today and I can't thank you enough.

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

I'm so glad you wrote that note.