OK, get ready to suspend disbelief because this really happened.
Joe and I have decided to approach this trip a little differently. We usually get in the car and ride hard, without stopping, until we get to the destination. This is Joe's preferred way of travel and I've slowly given into it over the years. We stop for gas and for the bathroom and that's it. Even then sometimes stopping for the bathroom is an issue, "There's another rest stop in 72 miles, can you make that one?" But we decided because it's beautiful weather to be more liesurely on the trip.
We stopped and shopped at duty free in Sarnia, chatting with other travellers, getting green tea from the coffee shop they have there. In general, lazing around. I was very proud of Joe that he didn't come apart at the seams. After finishing in East Lansing we drove to Avon, Ohio where we stopped for the night. Then yesterday we drove the remaining 6 hours to Baltimore. When we stopped for gas, I asked Joe to get the chair out cause I wanted to wander into the little stores in the Service Area. I could see the pain in his face (this is going to slow us down) but he got the chair out and I managed to pick up a couple things in the store and just generally relax. Back on the road I pointed out to Joe that me getting out, him getting gas, me getting in took all of 13 minutes. Ted, our GPS, records 'stopped' times.
So we were in Pennsylvania when lunch rolled round. A rest stop was comming that had a pizza joint and a Starbucks, I suggested we get off for lunch. I went in and picked up some cards from the store, then went to choose something to eat. I got a piece of mushroom pizza and Joe got some veggie pasta dish. When I told the woman that we would 'eat in' so we didn't need 'take out' containers. Joe's sigh had a catch in it but he said nothing.
We grabbed a table and Joe went off to get cutlery, some hot pepper flakes for our dishes and some napkins. In that time I chatted with a couple from Ohio who were travelling, all excitedly, to meet their new grandson. They were over the top. I congratulated them and then we chatted briefly but warmly about the weather, other drivers and the price of gas. Joe returned so I went back to our conversation. Joe pointed out that in all the years of travelling we'd never eaten in a place like this, we usually grab our food and eat in the car. 'Yeah, it's nice isn't it?' I say to Joe's stare.
On the way out I stop at Starbucks to get a tea for the road. Joe says, "There's a line up." I say, "Yeah, I'll wait." Joe waits off to the side, inwardly counting every second I was in the line. Then we head out, Joe carring my tea in my spiffy new container, I wheel myself down the slope to the car. Joe takes the chair and I stand for a few seconds beside the car. I don't worry about falling because I've got a good grip on the vehicle. The couple comes out and is about to walk by me without greeting. I say, "Hello," and they look at me startled. Like I was a wierd stranger talking to them.
"Hello," she says with hesitance."
"I hope your time with your grandbaby is wonderful," I say.
They both look at me, really look at me, and say, "Oh, you were the man we were talking to in the restaurant, we didn't recognize you ..." they didn't want to say, 'standing up.'
I was thrown by this. I mean, it's not like I'm an average kind of guy. I'm hugely fat, the hair I've got is unruly and always has two peaks on each side of my head, I'm perpetually tired so I have dark circles dotted with orange around my eyes. I'm like God's experiment with surrealist art. People don't often forget me, once they met me - and not because of the force of my beautiful nature. But this had been minutes ... minutes ... and they didn't recognize me.
They didn't see me. They missed the weight and the hair and the multicoloured eyes ... the winged hair, the swollen feet and the narrow shoulders ... they missed all that. They just saw the chair. It must be because that's all that was missing, I was standing without my chair.
Standing without my chair.
And became invisible. Or visible, I'm not sure.
Seen and unseen.