Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Yesterday morning I was groggy from the deep shock that time changes are becoming to my system. I sat in my wheelchair in the hallway of a nice hotel waiting for Joe to bring out the footrests for the wheelchair. We were on our way to a lovely breakfast buffet which would begin a day off that we'd planned simply to adjust. A woman of about my age was vacuuming the hallway, her accent was warm with spices when she stopped to ask me if she could assist with the door at the end of the hallway. I thanked her and told her that I was waiting for my friend to bring the footrests. She smiled, nicely, and went back to vaccuuming an already clean rug.

Just as Joe was attaching the footrests to my chair I saw her bend down, grab the handle of the large industrial vaccuum and pick it up. She carried it several feet down the hallway and then gently set it down. Her face looked tired, worn. Her hands, I noticed when passing by, were hard and looked sore. This was a woman who carried more than a vaccuum, she clearly carried the responsibility for other people in other hallways. She clearly worked hard to do what she needed to do for those who needed her to do what she did.

As Joe and I moved towards the door she set down the vaccuum and came, unbidden, unasked, to open the door for us. I thanked her again, she smiled back, and thus our day began. Over breakfast we mapped out the day which included going to the Imperial War Museum in downtown London.

We turned a corner and were suddenly driving along the river Thames. The trees were raining golden leaves that were mysteriously lit, given the dark slate of the sky. It was beautiful, relaxing and I swear the air smelled of Agatha Christie and Christopher Fowler. As we drove, my wheelchair tucked up safely in the boot of the car, I thought about the woman in the hallway. I wondered if she ever got days where she could just pamper herself, where her only concern was catching all of the view, where no one expected anything from her.

I saw her again when we returned, hours and hours later. She was down on her knees shining something that was already shiny. She saw us and sat up, stretching her back as if it was hurting, and welcomed us back to the hotel. There was a grace about her. In the lines of her face were fatigue, maybe loss, but certainly not bitterness.

Sitting in my wheelchair in a room made lovely by other's work, I feel something settle gently on my shoulders. Perspective.


Gary Miller said...

Welcome to the UK guys! :)

I used to work in the city; First Friday of every month a group of us would get together.

Visits to several pubs, an authentic Greek meal in 'Jimmy's' (opposite 'Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club' in Frith Street, Soho) and then an all-night showing in 'The National Film Theatre' (NFT) on the Embankment.

Fond memories of coming out of the NFT and walking along the Embankment - sometimes the sun even shone! - before heading off for breakfast then going home.

Hope you guys have plenty of time for play as well as work!


P.S. Just checked on Google - 'Jimmy's' is still there!

kstableford said...

Your writing is lovely, Dave. "Her voice was warm with spices." That is beautiful, and I know just what you mean.

Safe travels to you and Mr. Joe Jobes.

Astra said...

Great post. I always make the effort to smile and greet cleaners when the opportunity arises. I know there are some people (like one of my aunts) who enjoy cleaning and similar tasks, but it always seems like such a thankless job to me, particularly when so many people walk past like they're invisible.

I remember when I lived in halls at uni, my cleaner was a lovely woman and we always used to chat when she did my room and when we bumped into each other in the corridors. One day my parents came to visit and as she let them in, they mentioned who they'd come to see. She immediately said "Oh she's a lovely wee lass. I wish more of the students were as friendly and considerate as her". My parents told me what she'd said and it really stuck with me. A smile and a kind word costs nothing and leaves you both feeling better.

Kristin said...

I love that you remind us to stop and appreciate what might otherwise fade into the background.

Anonymous said...

I love your writings. I read them every day because I enjoy their content, and to learn…. Because I serve people who deserve better than my sometimes impatient responses, and though I strive to be respectful always – I see in myself the stupid need to control that which I have no right to control, well meaning or not. Please keep teaching because I am soaking up this knowledge like a sponge, and hopefully the people I serve will benefit…as much as I do.

Anonymous said...

ЧТо вы думаете про "Русские шпионы" депортированы из США Как вы к этому относитесь?