Imagine that you are a mentally retarded, schizophrenic, 55-year-old Portland woman. You live on your own but need assistance with daily tasks such as shopping and taking medication. You stand less than five feet tall and are obese. As a way of expressing yourself, you wear wigs-- sometimes brightly colored ones.
Now imagine that you're waiting at a bus stop in Northeast Portland when a young man named "Scooter" approaches you with a microphone.
"How much do you weigh?" asks Scooter, who doesn't tell you his real name but is one of the regular hosts for the morning Playhouse at Jammin 95.5, Portland's fourth-most popular radio station (see "Pulp Radio," WW, Dec. 4, 2002). "How tall are you?"
You are flustered. You're on your way to the Rainbow Adult Living Center and don't want to talk. But Scooter insists. He asks you over and over whether you are "going to Kmart to buy new underwear." (It's a reference to the autistic character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man, but you don't make the connection.)
Your bus comes and you think that your ordeal is over. But then on Feb. 19, you're listening to your beloved radio when, at 7:25 am, Scooter's on the air, bragging that he has found the "ugliest, fattest lady I've ever seen in my life." Then he rolls the tape of his "interview" with you.
You're not the only one who hears the broadcast. So do several of your colleagues at the rehab facility where you work. You tell a counselor that you'll never listen to your radio again.
Advocates rush to your aid. "This radio station has violated standards of human decency that are usually present in this community and has both perpetrated and opened the door for disrespect, discrimination and abuse of people with disabilities," writes Howard Klink, director of Multnomah County Developmental Disabilities Services, in a widely circulated email.
Your response is simpler. "That was a mean thing to do."
Rogue Desk note: Scooter couldn't be reached for comment. Station manager Tim MacNamara is looking into the matter but says he won't tolerate belittling the disabled.