There’s really nothing that can be done about it. Really. I feel guilty every single time, I know that guilt is almost always a useless emotion and this truly is, but I’m human – sue me. The thing is that when I’m out, in winter, in the power chair – the roads are slushy and dirty and full of muck, grime and salt. Whenever I roll into a mall the floor gets sloppy wet and I leave a muddy trail behind me.
We had just met with a young woman, a journalism student from Ryerson, who was going to do an interview with me and were heading off to our favourite tea shop, when I noticed a man standing looking at my trail behind me. He had a mop in his hand and I realized suddenly that I had just run over his nice, freshly cleaned floor. I felt mortified. All those years, through childhood, being yelled at for tracking in dirt came back in a flash. Guilt flooded me.
I decided to face him head on and apologize. Just as we were getting on the elevator I waved to him and he looked towards me. He didn’t need my wave to find me, he just had to follow my mucky track marks along the floor to my chair. I called out to him, ‘Sorry.’
Then the oddest thing happened. Instead of the grim face of an angry and frustrated mother, I got a big smile. He called back to me, ‘Not a problem, you keep me in a job.’ With that he took the mop and began to clean away any evidence that I’d been there and been messy. He absolutely lifted my spirits.
As we went off to do the interview I commented that he had the attitude that we need from everyone who works with and for people with disabilities. 'Hey, thanks for needing me!' It's a terrific attitude that makes work less like work somehow.
I saw the guy again in the mall a couple days later and, again, I was leaving tracks. He remembered me and gave me a big thumbs up!
Gotta love the guy.