“Are you here for the weekend then?” he said.
“No, I live here”, I replied.
“Oh, sorry mate, I haven’t seen you around before.”
You’d be surprised how infrequent this is. Here I was, sat in the smoking area of a local pub on Saturday night, facing a stranger who hadn’t seen me darting around town or said “bless you” outside a church. It’s always been something that’s intrigued me in a sense – even if people don’t know me personally, it might be that they recognise me in a number of different ways. You’d think it might flatter me that people notice, but in truth I’m not sure how I feel about it, or whether it freaks me out. I didn’t think I was very notable anyway! I was once stopped on the way home from College by an elderly couple, who pulled up alongside me in their car to promptly tell me they’d seen me near my house. That was it. Unfortunately, however, the house they were talking about happened to be in an entirely different part of the town where I live, meaning that they were also talking about an entirely different disabled boy. Despite the case of mistaken identity, I didn’t correct them, instead choosing to let this incredibly cringeworthy meeting pass, for their sake assuming the identity of the other wheelchair guy. Once they’d gone, I wondered whether I should smile at the fact they’d stopped to chat to me or be slightly miffed that they seemed to think all disabled people appeared exactly the same. The couple were clearly well-meaning regardless of the confusion, but it is nevertheless important to remember that disability comes in all shapes and sizes.
Aside from occasionally being lumped in with all other disabled people on the assumption we are all identical, my name has also been a source of frustration over the years. According to various people upon first meeting them I have been Nelson, Nathan, Jason, and even Madison and Mavis (the latter came from one of my teaching assistants). No matter how clearly I say “Mason”, another variation on my real name is never far away. Nelson has probably been the most frequent, and there was a boy in middle school who called me that for at least two years – I couldn’t be bothered to correct him either, and nor could anyone else! To my dismay, no keyring has been able to set the record straight, but I live in hope. Because my name isn’t particularly cool either, Mum and I came up with a cover story that I was named after Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. It could be a conversation starter, even if it isn’t true – and I’ve always wondered whether Louis’ name really did come from the credits of The Jerry Springer Show…