Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Life below armpit level

I just spent 4 days using a mobility cart at GenCon 50. I never realized that my fellow gamers were so: (take your pick) oblivious, rude, unthinking, self obsessed, cruel, mean-spirited or just plain f***ing annoying.

After 20 years with Fishing Has No Boundaries, an organization that provides opportunities for folks of all ages with disabilities, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of some of the hurdles they faced in doing “ordinary” things, having helped them overcome them. I was completely and totally ignorant as to what it feels like to be in a wheelchair (or in my case, on a mobility scooter). I was invisible (except for a few hours one afternoon; more on that later).

I will now speak in generalities; not everyone, by any means, exhibited this behavior.

I cannot count how many times I had to tell someone to “Look up!” when they had their face in their phone and stepped in front of me (keep in mind I am in motion). Now if this behavior was being exhibited on the highway, I would be OK with that as it would weed out that gene from the pool in short order.

I was frequently battered about the head and shoulders by backpacks and bags of games. I got a few looks that seemed that the offender didn’t think I should be in his way.

I had idiots jump in front of me, giggling sometimes, with lame “Sorry”’s and smirks. No, Jerkwad, if you were really sorry you would not act like an ass-hat.

I had strings of gamers (gamers all in a group) line up like ducklings following Mama, and then make a game of how many could dash in front of me and make me stop. All accompanied with phony smirks and “Sorry”’s. You weren’t sorry, you brain dead moron; if you were you would have paused and let me through.

The insincerity really hacked me off.

Karma can be a bitch, and one vacuous smartass got his ass bitten for many of the others. Motoring along the sidewalk, where it happens to be sort of divided by a bunch of planters, this rather large fellow jumped from his side in front of me on my side, gave me the mealy-mouthed “Sorry” complete with smirk, just as I rammed his Achilles tendon with the scooter, absolutely, completely by accident. I could not stop in time. As I loudly proclaimed what a foolish move it was to jump in front of scooters everyone around looked just as I hit him and saw him limp away. I hope it got infected.

Brother and Sister gamers, get your act together on this. Lots of gamers have to spend their lives in chairs or on scooters, and the general herd treat them like crap, as though they do not exist. I spoke with quite a few attendees who are in chairs all the time, or on a scooter. Every single one of them said that what I was observing was what they dealt with every day. Some of these fellow gamers are considerably more fragile than I. Look around you and take that into consideration. One of them used the phrase that became my title; anything below armpit level is often virtually invisible to too many people.

I was ashamed of the way my fellow gamers were behaving, and mine is only a temporary condition. I empathize with those living with those circumstances on a daily basis.

Later: One afternoon , instead of a gaming-related cap, I wore a VietNam Veterans cap. People were marginally (but only a little) more considerate and seemed to see me better. They also offered help, if needed, every time I stopped.


  1. You were far kinder than I am at cons. I have no problem hitting shins and running over feet. Two hundred pounds not including the chair hurts quite a bit when it is on your foot. If they don't see me I have no problem not seeing them.

  2. Christopher Travis-LomaxAugust 23, 2017 at 10:13 PM

    I'm not handicapped, disablex, in a chair, or on a scooter. I am, however, only 5' 2", so I can relate AND confirm what your friend said about life under armpit level.

  3. Shameful behavior by the mass of humanity at GenCon (and I suspect other Cons as well). I have my own issues with large crowds that kept me away, but I have heard other tales of this kind of behavior at GenCon, but in a much more general sense. That it happens to those with disabilities just makes it even less likely that I will ever attend GenCon (and I have no such disability) unless perhaps as a VIP, in which case I will use my voice however loudly I need to in order to change this kind of behavior.

    Sorry you had to deal with this crap Tim, and all other attendees with disabilities. Gamers by their very nature should be accepting of all, since many of us come from an adolescence of being outcast. SMH

  4. I am so sorry I wasn't able to catch up with you this year Tim, and I feel your pain; Just trying to navigate the throngs on foot with a purpose was far more trying than in the past, the crowds have grown less considerate to all: I can only imagine the level of frustration faced below armpit.

    I will have to remember this the next time someone plays a dwarf in one of my games..

  5. If it says anything about how bad it gets at Gen Con, I saw more people actually giving way in the dealer's room than prior years.... and it was STILL this bad

  6. I wish I could say what you experienced was unusual; however, it seems to be the norm at Gen Con. I've attended every Gen Con and Gary Con since 2010 in a wheelchair, and I've noticed, for whatever reason, the crowd at Gary Con is generally more aware and considerate.

    Hans writes an annual blog post about disability awareness and convention attendance and hits on many issues those of us who utilize mobility aids encounter.

    No matter how defensively we drive our mobility aids, it's impossible to anticipate a person's every move, and collisions occur. The half-hearted "I'm sorry" and sidelong half-smiles aggravate me, too. Collisions are definitely avoidable if people would slow down, watch where they're going, and avoid the urge to step over the feet of a person in a wheelchair or scooter.

    I hope you were not injured.

  7. What I would really like is two horns (the poke-y kind) and a klaxon.

  8. Tim Kask lecturing people on how to be decent, kind, and non-judgmental assholes. "Irony" doesn't even begin to cover it.

    In the past decade of Gen-con events, I've watched you rip people new assholes simply because you were having a bad day. I've seen you get jealous of your fading relevancy, and watched you lash out at 'friends' when it looked like one of your peers might grab the fading spotlight for more than their 'fair share' of moments.

    Over a decade of volunteer work at the convention has taught me that people say 'Tim Kask is going to show up' with a certain amount of resignation, almost as if they can't decide if your celebrity is outweighed by the reality of dealing with 'real life Tim' and his attitude.

    So while I totally agree with the message that people are rude and selfish assholes in regards to people with disabilities at the con - having personally been the recipient of more than one Kask-Tongue-Lashing(tm) - I can't help but laugh at the idea of the messenger being a 'poor victim'.

  9. It actually sounds like you kept your temper fairly well sir. Had I been in your shoes, I would likely be in jail right now. Courtesy is free folks. Use all you want.

    Hope the rest of the con was good to you Tim. XXOOCC

  10. Dear Mr. Kask,

    please forgive me for intruding into your private space in this way. I couldn't find any other way to contact you.

    I hope you don't mind me asking this question. I'm a huge fan of "proto-D&D" rpgs, the way of playing that came before or during original D&D was published first. Just recently, someone wrote about a session he played with you at this year's GaryCon. He said you kind of, sort of, used a very loose system based on something like "roll lower than average, disadvantageous things happen -- roll average, nothing changes -- roll above average, advantageous things happen", or"you roll, I roll. Whoever rolls higher, gets his way. Roll close enough, and we negotiate". Chirine ba Kal mentioned this a few times, as well.

    I'm very, very interested in this way of playing. Would you mind explaining it a bit?

    Thank you, sir.

  11. Ugh. Well, let me offer some kind of apology on behalf of these mouth-breathers in gamer's clothing (sized XXXXL). Shameful that you should have to deal with crap like this. As if navigating GenCon wasn't hard enough already. Being of the aforementioned XL gamer-size variety myself; I have grown up with a pretty acute sense of special acuity. Just comes with the territory when you're big and don't want to spend every outing bumping into people, and picking up knocked-over display items. I have noticed that most folks are not nearly as aware when they are out and about, and it's only gotten worse with the flocks of dummies endlessly staring into their mobile overlord's view screen while they haphazardly shuffle about...bumping into things like a zombie pinball.

  12. For an old man you sure are a whiny little bitch