Saturday, October 27, 2018


The guy bagging my groceries might have been what they used to call an EMH guy.

That’s what they called some kids at the segregated public elementary school for cripples I attended. EMH. It stood for Educable Mentally Handicapped. Nobody calls them that anymore. Nobody uses the word handicapped anymore. And I’m glad because I hate that word. A lot of people hate that word for a lot of different reasons. But I hate it because it sounds so whiny. You can’t say “I’m handicapped” without sounding whiny, unless you put on a fake British Alfred Hitchcock accent or something.

EMH was what they called the kids in the cripple school who weren’t physically crippled, except for the Down syndrome kids. There was a name for them. They were called Mongoloids. Let’s pause for a minute to unpack that word, shall we? The suffix oid means like, as in resembling. But it carries the connotations of being a cheap imitation of that which it resembles. So a Mongoloid was a cheap imitation of someone from Mongolia.

Everybody knew what to call the Down syndrome kids because they looked alike. But as for all the other kids who went to the cripple school but weren’t physically crippled and didn't look like Down syndrome kids, everyone just shrugged and called them EMH.

The guy bagging my groceries looked a lot younger than me. I wondered where he went to school? Because he had that EMH way about him, which back when I was a kid would’ve been grounds enough to ship him off to the cripple school. The EMH classroom was a segregated school within a segregated school. I don’t remember even being in the lunchroom with the EMH kids. Maybe there was a separate EMH lunchtime. None of us knew what went on inside the mysterious and spooky EMH classroom. We were just told that if EMH people went to school long enough, they might someday learn to do something like bag groceries. That was opposed to the TMH kids, which stood for Trainable Mentally Handicapped. If TMH kids went to school long enough, we were told, they might someday learn to do something like tie their shoes. We had no idea what kind of school TMH kids went to. There were none of them at our segregated cripple school.

I bought a six pack at the grocery store. The cashier was too young to ring it up. So he stepped back and the EMH guy went behind the cash register and rang me up.

Wow, back when I was in cripple school, I never thought I’d see a day when they’d let an EMH guy take charge like that.

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