They were having an earnest discussion. They were probably in first or second year university, a time when everything seems important and when few things actually are. Each had hair that was studiously messy, one was artfully unshaven, the other had one of those thatches of hair under the lip. Their topic was about how one's view of life affected one's experience of life. Me, I was just at the next table having a tea and resting from a day's presentation.
I had talked, all day, about abuse and abuse prevention as it relates to people with intellectual disabilities. It's the hardest day I do, it's emotionally the most draining, and I always need to go and sit quiet and refresh my spirit. I find a cup of tea, exactly the right tea mind, usually does that for me. There was only one table that I could pull in at as the rest of the place was either filled or inaccessible.
The two student philosophers were off to my left, they noticed me but barely as I settled down for tea. I listened sort of casually as they talked. I had this conversation too when I was younger, my minister had it again last weekend, it doesn't really inspire me to much. Then one of them put a glass of water in the middle of the table and they began with the 'half full, half empty' debate.
I think one of them saw me give a small smile when I saw the 'prop' for their discussion. I wasn't mocking them, not really, I simply thought it was cute. Joe and I used to have passionate debates about things like that when we were in university. Those debates would make us giggle now but boy did we flap our jaws about stuff back then.
Finally, the one with the arty hair and the sculpted scruff called me into their conversation. They knew I'd been listening so figured I wouldn't mind. They explained their contention about life and attitude and then asked me as a 'disabled man' how I saw the glass of water.
"You want my opinion as a disabled guy?"
"Well, yes, but we don't mean to offend." I got that.
"No, no, I'm not offended, I am a disabled guy and my disability does give me a different view than others on some things, I get that, you get that too, that's cool."
"About the glass?"
"Well, speaking as a disabled guy I'd advise you to realize it's just a glass of frigging water and it doesn't matter one whit if it's partly empty or nearly full. It's just water."
"But," one sputtered, "it represents ..."
"It represents," I interupted, "a glass of water. What I've learned as a disabled guy is that what's real in this world is what's worth worrying about. Allegory and symbolism is fine ... but what's real is attitude, prejudice, access, fairness, equality, justice ... I don't care if the glass of water is half full unless I can get to it, I don't care if it's half full if I can't afford it, I don't care if it's half full if it's placed out of reach, I don't care if it's half full if I'm thirsty, but the nurse won't bring it."
"Half the restaurant this town have steps in front of them, another quarter have narrow aisles most of the rest have inaccessible bathrooms, I'd be pleased to worry about the water in their glasses ... but while you're priveliged butt is in the chair worried about it, the rest of us are outside looking in at it. All it is is water that you can debate about and we can't drink."
There was a pause.
"So what do you think?" I asked.
But they'd lost the desire to talk.