Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Thousand Miles

They chatted like an old married couple. He made her giggle. Her giggle made him smile. They were an unlikely duo. He a businessman, and if judging by the suit, a successful one. She was a woman maybe twenty years older than him, feet tucked into sneakers, butt tucked into pants a size too small. She bustled around, sitting people here, serving people there, all the while she kept coming back to him for chat.

She asked him about his wife and kids, he answered and she listened as if her life depended on it. Then she was off getting toast for these, eggs for those. The breakfast area was full and she was the only one staffing it. She was kindly to all but he was her favourite. I noticed that whenever she came over to talk to him, he put his pen down and looked up at her. Listened, answered questions and remained present to her. As if she mattered. As if he saw her as another, fellow, equal human being. When he made a joke her smile lit her face and pushed the shadows back in her eyes.

From watching others, it became clear that she is a woman who is not often seen, often greeted never spoken with, called for but not wanted. I listened for awhile and none but he (and we) said thank you to her for her efforts. Some showed impatience where it wasn't due, few showed gratitude when it was. I saw she walked with a slight limp, I saw she looked tired. I'm guessing every step she took was to support a family, pay a bill, make little bits of joy possible for others. I saw a woman who worked.

And so did he. I gathered that he was a regular there. When he left he addressed her by name and said he'd see her next week when he was back in town. She grinned and said she'd have the regular waiting for him.

Once he was gone she went back to work with the same quiet determination. But a little of the spring in her step was gone. I think it was because she was, now, no longer Francis, she was simply, 'Hey, you, coffee.'


Kris S. said...

As always, Dave, your ability to see and describe interactions many people would miss is impressive. THX.

FridaWrites said...

Yes, your powers of observation are excellent--they'd make you a good fiction writer too.

Cynthia F. said...

reading this post made me realize how your writing has affected me, dave - i look around and notice people a lot more. thank you!

Andrea S. said...


Sorry, off topic for this post,

But I just learned that Canada has just ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)! So I just wanted to drop a line to congratulate you!

Okay, it's not your personal accomplishment :-) , but it's your government ... and this is a tool that I think will ultimately be important in promoting many of the goals you are trying to accomplish in Canada (and elsewhere). For example, article 12 on legal capacity (equal recognition before the law) protects the right of people with disabilities to make their own decisions. This includes people with intellectual disabilities. Article 15 addresses the right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment and Article 16 covers the right to freedom from violence. And there's plenty more.

I wonder if your agency (Vita) has been taking a look at the CRPD with an eye toward how the CRPD can help its own clients?

Anonymous said...

About two years ago, my husband and I went to a sushi restaurant we frequent. We don't go there often enough for the staff to know our names, but we do go about once every 2 or 3 months.

This specific time stands out because we received the best service we ever had at any restaurant.

See, when we walked in and were seated, the waitress asked us how we were doing. I looked at her, told her we were doing wonderful, and asked how she was doing.

It was a very small social interaction, but it floored her. My asking her how she was so shocked her she couldn't answer for a few minutes, and then, when she did, it was to apologize for her reaction. She didn't expect me to treat her like a human being.

Like I said, that day we received the best service I've ever had at any restaurant. The thing is, I wasn't trying to get good service, this is how I always try to treat people. Because it doesn't matter what they do or *who* they are, they are all deserving of respect.

i. said...

Thanks for this, so well written and brought a tear to my eye.

Kristin said...

I don't know what to say except wow! I always thought I was a fairly decent observer but reading your stories has inspired me to kick it up a bit and I try to be even more aware of what is going on around me. Thank you.