I had hoped that travelling on WheelTrans to work I'd meet others in the 'crip community' and maybe even make a friend or two. Well, that was a naive hope. As I only use the service to go to work, Joe picks me up and takes me home, I'm on the bus quite early. I've discovered how rare we morning people actually are. There I am all bright eyed and full of morning greetings and I'd be met with either a polite 'good morning' with an 'and leave me alone' tone of voice or just plain stoic silence. OK. OK. Even amongst people without disabilities I admit to being AWAKE really, really AWAKE very early in the morning.
So imagine my surprise when I was staring out the side window and another passenger, an older man, got into the seat beside the drive. He turned and said a brisk and bright 'Good morning'. My heart lurched, I AM NOT ALONE. I answered quickly and just as quickly we were talking. He told me the history of his apartment building and how he came to live there. Turns out he is a retired lawyer and loved to chat. We talked about all sorts of stuff, politics, relationships, weather. This is my kind of guy.
Then we turned to pick up another passenger. As we pulled up to the house I saw that it was a group home and on seeing us a woman with Down Syndrome got up and headed over to the bus. I was sitting on the back bench of the van, my wheelchair folded up in front of me. She got on the bench beside me, nodded a hello to me and then said, 'So how are you today?' in a cheery voice to the man up front.
Turns out they often share a ride. She goes to a workshop and he goes to a rehab place for morning exercise and they are on each other's routes. He joked with her about the snow on the ground, she joked with him about the snow on his head. She was fast and funny. They obviously had come to enjoy each other. So, now we all three chatted. Time just flew by.
When we got to where we were to drop him off the 'lift barrier' wasn't working so the drive, who had said not a word, got out to go to the office to get them to lift it so we could get in and his passenger be dropped off. I made a comment about how the driver was a tad less than friendly. He, the lawyer dude, made a comment to the woman with Down Syndrome that the last time the driver had been quite, and I'm quoting here, I'm also typing the word directly from the dictionary, 'loquacious'.
There was a pause and then the woman with a Down Syndrome spoke up and said, laughing, 'Hey, use words that I can understand!" He laughed and said, 'He talked a lot.' He then winked at me and said, 'We play a game, every time we travel together I'll use a big silly word and she calls me on it.' She grinned, liking the game, liking the opportunity to be assertive.
Then he got off the van waving goodbye to both of us. Lovely guy. I understood in a second what he was doing, he would know - as a lawyer - that words can be used to clarify but words can also be used to establish hierarchy. A hierarchy that can be destroyed simply by a demand for plain language. I don't know who he is, I don't know why he is concerned about her ability to speak up and demand plain language. There is some history there, some story I'd like to hear.
I know that lawyers often suffer when their proffession is subject to floccinaucinihilipilification, and people with disabilities are constantly subject to floccinaucinihilipilification ourselves - maybe this led to a connection. Maybe something else happened ... whatever, it's a story I'd like to hear over a beer. From either one of them, preferably both.