Many of you know that I live right in the centre of the city of Toronto. As such there are a number of street folk who make a living asking for spare change, even more who sleep curled up in the nooks and crannies provided by doorways. We have nodding acquaintance with most and are regular contributors to some. I tell you this by way of setting the background for what happened.
Joe and I, on the way home from the post office, stopped at the liquor store to pick up some beer. I've learned almost every possible pathway from the door to where the beer is set out on display. If one aisle is blocked with people or carts, I know the next to go to. It happened to be a day when a lot of shelves were being restocked so I had to make my way further into the store.
I was just coming to my final options, the last passageway, when round the corner came a fellow we have seen working the streets. He had three beer in one hand and two in the other. He wore a bulky, and very stained, parka, that was way to big for him. As he made the turn towards the cash desk I saw his parka brush at a display of vodka, setting one of the bottles rocking dangerously. He noticed it too and stopped, he quickly placed one of the beer in his right hand against the rocking bottle stopping it from falling.
In there somewhere, I'm not sure where, I spoke.
It just came out of me.
There was no thought.
There wasn't a moments space between impulse and speech.
I said: "Be careful there now."
The tone was the one used, in a kindly way, to a child about to knock something off a table. I recognised immediately that I had diminished him with both tone and words. Somehow his adulthood disappeared, my inner sense of superiority (that's the wrong word but I don't know the right word, help if you can) came through.
But it was over. He was at the cash desk, I didn't want to chase after him. I wanted to apologise but I didn't want my apology to draw attention to either him or my behaviour - what if he hadn't noticed?
I should know better.
I do know better.
It's stunning to me how words and tone can rise, quickly, from a place of prejudice and communicate too much about who you are, who I am.
That tone is used on me, too often, as a disabled man, for me not to know how it feels.
And I did it anyways.
I KNOW BETTER!!!