I recently read a rant by a fellow service dog owner on Facebook. It ignited my own fire. And the story is a year old, so I feel it is ok to tell now. But my ex-husband and I were sitting at a chess tournament while our son competed. It was the usual group of interesting, nerdy, fierce, well-read, exceptionally nervous parents and children. Not one normal one in the group, including our family. We all had our books and healthy snacks and nervous conversation and hammering legs while we waited to see which of our infinitely strategic children would outsmart the others… It’s a horrible and terrible two days each year because your nerves are shot. Your intolerance for noise and intellectual conversation peaks and your desire to know that you are not childishly parenting your child to ‘just win’ is waning. You definitely want them to win. You hope the child your child plays in the next round spent too much time at Kumon to be as good at chess as yours. It’s pathetic. And I own it.
But this particular day, my child went into another round, and an energetic middle-age-ish man with a t-shirt, man bun and a particularly overzealous, friendly attitude stopped by to visit my ex and I. He was making his way around the room of parents. Short story, he started an entrepreneurial school for elementary children. He began talking. I am not sure of the opening question. But here’s the kicker. We have two awesome kids, both with some type of unique needs in the classroom. So we’re just the whos this “out of the box thinker” might want to reach. I perk up because I always want people to feel welcome. And I always want to hear the new thought or idea or entrepreneurial vision. I love these type of folk.
My ex husband is much more, shall we say, cynical than I. And it is sort of funny. So it plays out just as if we were married. I put my book down and begin to ask questions eagerly about education and philosophy. And my ex looks annoyed and puts his book down to be nice for a moment, but has his hands half ready to bail out on the conversation should he find it too mundane.
And because my eager face and conversation is too close to the vicinity of my ex’s reading, he finally breaks in and says, “So how much does it cost?” I am thinking he is being abrasive. The guy was telling us all about it! But I have learned to smile effortlessly and listen as if his question doesn’t hurt my idea of openness. And kindness.
And then I cough and swallow a hair ball that I had no idea was lodged in my throat.
There was no hairball, but it felt like it. The man answered, and my mind briskly paced through the words as it usually does. And then it paused and hit rewind and played again.
“Well, (blah, blah, blah) it is $60K a year per child because (blah blah blah).”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to just look away or to get up and slap him on his face, not in an aggressive way, but in a more “reset” fashion. You know, like when you call IT, and they say ‘have you restarted it?’ I wanted to be able to say ‘yes’. I think I found the button.
Instead I just looked at him with his t-shirt and sloppy pants and hair in a bun and started to see him differently. Sooooo, you want me to pay how much for school and yet you can’t afford a real outfit? Man buns are hot when you’re 18, but you’re like 38. And an entrepreneur educator? I don’t need you to wear a suit, but the smell of your armpits is now wafting into my space.
If I pay $60K for my kid to go there, will you then be able to afford deodorant? Obviously without the carcinogens. My open mind was shutting just a bit. But I still feel the need to be respectful openly. So I listen more. And I realize my ex husband has genuinely called this guy’s number, and I was the idiot. My open mind had gotten us into trouble (not the first time), and I became ever so grateful for cynicism and intolerance of other people. Because I certainly wouldn’t have mustered it on my own.
But then the real moment of truth hit. And when I say that, I mean two moments. But either one would really hit the point home. And quite honestly, I have forgotten the name of the school, in order to protect them really. I would hate to tell a story that could be traced back to the owner. Because my joy is not in crushing, but in telling the story, as I remember it happening.
The man right about then looked down and saw our son’s service dog, who had been laying quietly under the table the whole time.
He said something like, “I see you have a service dog! Yah, you can get those vests on Amazon for like $20.”
And when I thought he was done, I was proven wrong. Substantially. We both looked at him blinkingly. He clearly doesn’t read nonverbal cues. We were unsure what to say. But hopeful if we were quiet, he might disappear or retreat, even slowly. But no. He did nothing of the sort.
“We got our dog a vest so he could ride on the planes with us. We couldn’t afford the $80 to have him crated. It is just too expensive.”
And the fury of hell began to rise in my soul as I now saw a fuckface, arrogant, douschebag, with the fucked up hair, t-shirt, overpriced school and underdeveloped social skills in front of me. And I said, in my best ‘fuck you’ voice, which isn’t terribly scary.
“Well, we definitely have a problem with that. See, this is a real service dog. And we have to pay for people who do exactly what you do. Our dog serves our son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, and we hate when people buy a vest because it makes it harder for us to use the dog we paid thousands of dollars to be trained and serves the most important purpose in the world, to care for our child with incredible anxiety.”
It is important to note that the man didn’t slow down at the rate he should have. He should have hit his head on the proverbial dashboard as I hit the brakes on his self-aggrandizing stories of education and morality. He should have felt stupid and apologized for, in any way, diminishing the job and the purpose of a service dog and the fact that this service dog has changed our son’s life as opposed to his fake service dog, who had saved him $80 a flight.
And need I touch on the fact that if he is making $60K a student at his entrepreneurial school, $80 should be a hiccough of an investment in morality and leave him focusing on his job as opposed to his dog, who probably behaves nothing like a service dog. He did walk away. Not drooping or red as I had wanted to see, as justification for the pure ignorance and arrogance of what he elicited into the universe. But the conversation ended quickly thereafter, although with less satisfaction on my part.
To wrap the story up… my ex husband, who I do love for his deep cynicism and biting humor, said to me, “Go check out the school guy’s presentation table outside.”
I said, “ok. Why?”
He said with a smug smirk, “Just go look.”
And with a spring in my step, I walked outside to his table. And of the six benefits he listed for his school, he misspelled 2 of them. Fucking misspelled! And I wish I could even tell you what the words were, because it would be the best ending to this story. But let’s suffice to say that the words weren’t large or elaborate or fancy. They were words most of us could spell correctly, SHOULD spell correctly… especially at an intellectual event such as a chess tournament. Especially asking for more than the average income of the average Arizonans for a child to go to school there, and especially, especially, especially for an idiot guy who isn’t embarrassed to tell people why and how he cheats the system.
He didn’t tell friends of his WITHOUT service dogs, but to the parents of service dog owners, whose child uses the dogs for their Autism Spectrum Disorder. Does he mind telling the man in the wheelchair that he also pretends to be unable to walk? Does he mind regaling the blind woman with a story of how he too pretends to be blind so he can get in line first to get the best deal?
May there be a very dark corner of hell for this man, and of course, I mean this in the most non-judgmental way. But may he and his entrepreneurs burn in the brimstone of a hell even I don’t fully believe in.
And may there be a spelling test each week, with words only overpriced 30 something manbun entrepreneurs do not know how to spell (so anything really). And may the punishment for misspelling be wearing a service vest and helping out a disabled demon, learning to lash sinners. And may the lash continually get caught in his man bun painfully as the wily demon struggles to whip more precisely. And may it go on and on… for longer than forever.
That’s all. Mic down. Done with my rant too.
With Love, Peace and Joy,