Grocery Shopping While Disabled (A story)

Chris Mielo
Nov 28, 2017 · 3 min read
Grocery Store Produce

I’m not a fan of grocery shopping. While, yes, I enjoy cooking, and getting ideas by perusing the grocery store shelves, the shopping experience is usually one of frustration and annoyance.

“Do you need help?”

As I traversed the shopping aisle looking for what I needed for dinner, I heard the familiar question to my right.

“Do you need help?”

It’s a question I get a lot while I’m…. well, while I’m doing most things in my life. Being in a wheelchair tends to bring out the best interactions with people, and sometimes, awkward ones as well.

I flashed a friendly smile and looked up at the woman that had just approached. She looked to be in her mid-40s. I had what I needed and was ready to move on to the next item.

“No, I’m good, thanks. I got my butter, and it looks like the cheese is right down there, right?”

Asking the question was probably my second mistake. The first was grocery shopping while disabled.

“Oh yes,” was her reply, “Let me help you, what do you need?”

She was walking alongside me now, so there was no getting away without being rude.

“Just need some cheese for the dinner I’m making tonight.”

As we moved down the aisle, it didn’t take long for the next question to drop.

“So how come you need that?” she asked, referring to my wheelchair. “Were you in an accident?”

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to people wanting to know that piece of information about me before they even know my name.

“Yes, I was in an accident.”

“Somebody hit you?”

“Yah, it was a car accident when I was four.”

“Oh my. Well, I’m glad I can help you,” she said with a smile. “It’s a blessing to be able to help people like you.”

People like me? I could only assume she meant good looking people with a sense of humor.

She continued with her interrogation. “Do you have someone at home that helps you?”

“Yes, I live with my fiancé.”

“Oh, good, she’s still with you,” came the response.

Still with me? Of course she is! We’ve already established I’m a good looking guy with a sense of humor.

Eager to change the subject as we arrived at the cheeses, I decided to ask her some questions. “I’m making mac and cheese for dinner tonight. Any suggestion on which cheeses would be best?”

She then said the most troubling thing that I had heard in our whole 2 minutes of interaction.

“I’m not sure. I only make it from the box.”

As she ‘helped’ me grab the cheeses that were well within my reach, a young man in his early 20s came over.

“She’s not bothering you, is she?”

“I’m not bothering him, I’m helping him!” she responded.

It seemed that they had come shopping together, but I had no idea what their relation might be.

“No, it’s fine, she’s helping me.” I said.

“You know,” she continued, talking to the young man, “it’s a blessing to help people like him.”

‘People like me’ try to escape uncomfortable situations like these as quickly and discreetly as possible. I saw my opening to withdraw and get on to the next item on my list, thanking the lady. As I left, I could hear them going back and forth, him about bothering people, and her about helping.

Continuing my shopping, I thought about this woman. Here was a woman that had all the right intentions, but the whole wrong approach. When our paths’ crossed, she was by herself in the aisle despite being there with someone. Even worse, she had never had home-made mac and cheese.

“By letting her ‘help’ me, I probably made her day a little better.” I thought. “And it’s a blessing to help people like her.”

Chris Mielo

Written by

Disabled athlete, motivational speaker, Pittsburgher

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