Saturday, April 14, 2012


I saw him immediately.

He would have been hard to miss.

"DON'T LOOK INTO THE LIGHT," my mother always screamed whenever we were anywhere near someone welding. She had us convinced that our retinas would burn away instantaneously. But there he was, on the staircase welding something. I didn't look into the light, my mother would have been pleased, but I certainly looked at the source of the light - a welding torch.

We were in the lobby of the Marriott Gateway in Niagara Falls where we were going to spend the weekend at a staff retreat. My manual wheelchair was in the MV-1 and I was motoring in my power chair. The day before Joe had noticed that there was a small fracture in the frame of my manual chair. It looked like the kind of thing that was going to simply get worse over time. I went immediately into panic - this is my primary way of getting around after all.

In the lobby, looking at the welder, a plan formed in my head.

An equation:

Welder + Something that needed welding = Opportunity Knocking

I asked Joe, who thought the question odd, "Do you think he looks nice?"

After a brief discussion we agreed we had no idea what 'nice' looks like. I was about to approach him when a manager looking fellow came down the stairs passing the welder on his way. I dove in. I explained to the manager that I was going to ask for a bizarre favour. It took me a couple minutes to explain about my chair in the car and the little weld that it needed. I asked if it would be OK to ask the welder. I assured the manager-type-guy that it was totally fine if the answer was "no" - it was just the opportunity and, need I say, THE EQUATION.

The manager said, "I'll ask him for you."

They talked.

The manager came down, the welder following. He asked me questions that I didn't know the answers to - Was the chair made of stainless steel? I wondered to myself, 'Can people answer questions like that - who knows those kind of things?' I said, 'I don't know.' He said he'd take a look at it and if he could he would.

He could.

He did.

My chair is all welded up.

Right there in the lobby of the hotel, my wheelchair went under the torch. I wonder what people thought when they came in, seeing a welder, in a hotel, on a staircase, welding a wheelchair? I wonder if they knew what they were seeing?

The manager saw me later in the afternoon and asked if it all went well. He actually seemed to care about my answer, I assured him that all was now good.


Constantly surprise me.

The welder didn't know it, but not only did he fix the fracture in my chair, he also welded together the fracture that occurs from time to my time in my faith in humanity.


Anonymous said...

The kindness of strangers always slays me. You expect some kindnesses from loved ones - but when someone does something, with nothing in it for them, with no history - it touches you in a special part of your heart.

John R. said...

This is great, I am intrigued by some of the metaphors associated with welding! In this situation it is so meaningful. I bet there are many of us who can use this scenario and the metaphor or analogy of welding and apply it to our glad your manual chair is healed!!

Janet said...

Just to let you know, I'm coming to Niagara Falls with my husband later this year. We were planning at staying at another hotel. I looked at the link after reading your story, we're going there. If they are willing to help out when they don't have to, they are a good place to stay. Thanks I'll let you know how our visit goes. Other accessible suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Reading this story how you told it breaks my heart and heals it at the same time.
I guess it's ok to be broken when there is love and healing around us.

CT said...

That is awesome.

Bubbles said...

My father was a fitter/welder and he loves people and fixing things... I think if he had been asked this same question he would of been tickled pink and you would of had to restrain him from trying to modify your manual chair to the point of racing standard! Maybe it's the field!!!

Anonymous said...

It's so good you caught it before it actually broke. I've needed my chair welded twice, and didn't have an alternative. It made me feel so helpless.


Belinda said...

Wow, someone who by-passed hurdles and "just did it." It restores my faith in sensibility and kindness--which hadn't really gone, but I would have expected someone to feel a form had to be filled out or a waiver signed or something! It's wonderful to hear about something being so uncomplicated and simply done.

william Peace said...

This story reminds me of a similar experience I had in Detroit. I flew in from NY and the airline cracked the frame of my wheelchair. I refused to leave the terminal until the airline would find a welder to repair my frame. As you can imagine this led to a long discussion with many people. But I got what I wanted. A welder repaired the cracked frame in the brand new terminal. Got quite an audience of gawkers.

Princeton Posse said...