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Liz Carr

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Liz is a crip activist and actor, now trying to gain experience as a stand-up comedian. Originally from the North West, she recently moved to London, lured by the bright lights and the promise of fame and fortune. She's still waiting.

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The Staring Stalemate

19th November 2009

I look funny. Both funny haha and funny peculiar. I’m short, pale, thin and bent in all kinds of directions. I appear frail in a meek and sickly Jane Austen kind of way. I have an adult head on a child’s nonconformist body. I am most definitely, unique.
Liz Carr as a front seat passenger
It is unsurprising therefore that I am stared at. Repeatedly, regularly, obviously, surreptitiously, publicly, brazenly, stared at. I don’t blame people for doing this - if I saw someone who was as weird looking as me, I would stare too.

I used to think that having been the victim, I’d never be a staring perpetrator. How wrong I was. whilst I may get uppity or upset sometimes when I am stared at, the truth is, I am as guilty of ogling at other people as they are of ogling at me. In reality therefore, I confess that I am both a stare-ee and a stare-er.
My very favourite place to play the game of what I call Staring Stalemate is in the hospital waiting room - obviously. But even before I arrive for my appointment, the journey there provides me with plenty of staring opportunities.

Being a short arse, when in the car, only my big brown eyes and mop of greying black curls are visible above the dashboard. When another car pulls up beside us, it’s a race against time to see who will clock who first. If they stare my way, their responses range from polite smiles to embarrassment and sniggers. I pretend not to notice.

If I spy them first, I’ll make the most of it, staring as they sing along to the radio, pick their noses or flick a V to the car in front - blissfully unaware of their audience. Once we catch each others eye though, the game is up and there's no more ogling action until we reach our destination.
A disability parking bay
Arriving at the hospital, my personal assistant pulls into the disabled parking area. There's one space free but two of us waiting for it. My PA helps me out of the car before approaching the other driver to ask him if he wants the space. He looks long and hard at me before replying, ‘yours is much worse than mine, you deserve it more than we do’. Sometimes looking as though your next breath may be your last has it’s definite advantages.
So, smugly parked up, I wheel into the hospital waiting room and the stare off begins. As I check in, I know I’m already being sized up by the other patients. I’m the new kid in town and obviously this town ain’t big enough for all of us. I take my place in the designated wheelchair area, a metal trolley of wound dressings my only company. From this very special vantage point, I begin to survey the waiting room.
Liz in the waiting room's wheelchair area.
The space is filled with a selection of high backed, wipe clean, wing backed chairs in pastel colours. There’s a large children’s play area with one dirty teddy bear. Refreshments are available from a drinks machine that dispenses hot water and powdered soup for 50p. A huge screen relays health information on the major symptoms of prostate cancer, the average units of alcohol consumed by a 24 year old man and who to call if you’re feeling suicidal. There’s an ample supply of reading materials dating back to the 1990s - The People’s Friend, Readers Digest and Take a Break. I tut at the selection but then nudge my PA in a vain attempt to silently convey my need for the magazine with the '30 day Christmas Countdown' and snowman oven glove pattern.

I pretend to read a recipe for the perfect mince pie as I stare at the other patients. I want to know what’s wrong with everyone, why they’re here and most importantly, if anyone appears as crippled as me ... perish the thought.

An older woman with a walking stick and a knee bandage is doing a Sudoku. A first timer keeps bringing his urine sample back to the receptionist despite clear directions to the sluice. And then there’s the small child who, bored with the play area, has turned all her attention on me.

Standing in front of my chair, she screams out, “Why are your hands all twisted and ugly?” The waiting room falls silent as everyone stares at us. The little brat had voiced the unspoken curiosity of every single person in that room. I could have replied with a responsible answer about not eating my vegetables as a child. I considered a scary retort about being an evil old witch. But in the end, I wanted to give her a mature and truthful response. I made sure that all eyes were still on me before replying. “It is mainly due to calcinosis of the joints caused by my impairment and long term steroid use.” That shut her up.

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