I had to get Epsom salt for foot baths. While at the store a lady asked why I’m wearing the brace. This is Indiana, they’ll ask in a heartbeat why you’re in a wheelchair. Strangers chit chat in stores and are generally friendly people. It’s just you don’t want to deal with the police and you don’t want to go to certain areas of the city at night or different parts of the state if you’re a person of color. Like most places, we are most racially divided on Sunday.

Despite our general friendliness, we frown on street photographers who point a camera at us. I bring this up because I follow a great street photographer who lives in New York where I have quite a few friends. I can’t believe some of the photos that are taken when the subject knows they’re being photographed. We would flip out! People here in Indiana will touch your hair, ask you questions about your injuries or talk to you about sex (seriously, total strangers) and anything else but don’t think you’re going to get away with pointing a camera at a total stranger, it’s not gonna work.

Here in Indiana (especially with this election) we see young men in pick up trucks with obnoxiously large confederate flags and oversize national flags. These things are big as buildings it seems and they’re just a flyin’ high and whipping in the wind behind their beat up pick up. In Indiana you’ll see a John Deere ride down the same street as a golf cart. One of my neighbors has free roaming chickens and ducks, the other has a goat. We are divided by color in many ways, and you can feel the racial divide, but there are many of us who are everyday people just plain ol Hoosiers who display and accept an eclectic array of social behaviors.

Last week while at the store when I intended to get Epsom salt but forgot, I heard a lady yelling at her children in this violent tone. I could hear the smacks but I couldn’t hear the children cry out. I know that one too well. You better not make a sound! I was not happy. I could see her rip the kids here and there. The oldest was about 10 and was pushing the cart. He was told screamed at and had the cart shoved at him because she feared he’d run into her ankles. Then he was in trouble for having the car too far away. Ya know, when you walk on eggshells they’re going to break. Every step you take something is going to break. Those kids couldn’t do anything right. Then she pulled into an isle and off to the corner near the paint section and stopped the cart. This is where I rolled in.

I rolled up to her, sighed softly, slumped in my chair a little and said, “You’re not having a good day are you?” We talked for a minute. She got her phone out and made a phone call.  I didn’t move. I smiled at the youngest and asked if she’s having a bad day, she shook her head yes. I didn’t say anything else to the kids as I sat there and waited for their mom to finish the phone call. When she hung up I talked to her a little more. I needed her to calm down, get herself together, don’t punch those kids again. By the time I rolled away she appeared calmer. She was angry, deeply enraged, and you could hear it in her voice. She needed that relief from her anger and they were the only ones who could not overpower her. Anyone who has been a punching bag knows the sound in her voice I heard that day.

Years ago I did the same thing, just not in a wheelchair. I was at the ER with a friend. We’d been waiting for a long time. There was a mother and small children who showed signs of being there too long under stress. The mother kept smacking the 2 yr old (?) baby she was holding, telling him to be quiet. Smack, shut up. Smack, shut up. I told my friend I wasn’t going to be able to sit there and watch that much longer. She asked that I leave it alone. Smack, shut up, I stood up. I walked over slowly, sat in the seat across from her and said, “You’re tired aren’t you? Been here a long time?” From there she explained her situation and that she needed a cigarette. I said, we’re in a hospital full of people, you can see me out that window right there. I’ll hold the little one while you take a break. She handed him to me and went outside and watched me like a hawk through the glass. He cried a little more. I patted his back and said, let it out little guy, go on. I just kept patting his back. He was soon sleeping. I talked to his siblings and asked them to remember that they will be home soon and to try and relax a little bit. Mom returned. I handed the baby back and stayed a few minutes more to tell a story to her older kids.

This is Indiana, this is what we do here.  We have a strange mix of comfort levels with strangers. I can hold your kid while you walk away. I can roll up to you and just start talking to you. People will touch your hair, ask personal questions, tell you their business and every sort of interesting thing, but you best not put a camera in our faces cause we will flip on you.


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