She was wrestling with a huge suitcase, while trying to keep track of two small children, as she got on the subway. She was just in front of me, she got on and stopped. There were crowds of people behind me, I couldn't move, so I called out to her, she turned, saw that she was blocking the passageway and quickly moved out of the way, her words full of apology, her eyes full of embarrassment. In a few seconds I was in the disabled parking space holding on as the train left.
As we approached Dundas, she was there again, the big suitcase, the two kids and worry, lots of worry. She spoke to me saying that she would be getting off next. I told her I was getting off too. She wasn't familiar with Toronto and wanted to assure herself that she was getting off at the right stop. I assured her. I also told her that at this end of the train, at the Dundas stop, there was a huge gap between the train and the platform. She needed to mind the gap with the suitcase and encourage her children to hop over it.
She thanked me, the subway came to a stop, she got off first and stopped, again just a foot or two from the door. I need more space than that to shoot off over the gap, so I asked her to move again. She, again, quickly moved. Her distraction with the size of the suitcase and the care of the kids was self evident.
There were a lot of people getting off the train so we followed her and her kids, having promised we'd keep and eye on them and would let her know if they dawdled to far behind. They didn't. When we were all through the turnstiles she looked lost for a second and then approached us. She wanted directions to where she was going. We were as relieved as she was that her destination was only a block and a half away.
Joe had a clearer sense of a way that she could go, an easy route, that would keep her indoors most of the way. So he gave her directions. She thanked us, we assured her that it was no problem. She said that she had been praying that she would meet someone safe at Dundas who could help her find her way. We were, she said, answer to her prayer. She continued by saying that she could tell we were safe right from the start. "You didn't yell at me about my suitcase. I'm having trouble, it's so big."
"Surely people haven't yelled about your suitcase?" I said. Not meaning to deny the reality of what she'd just said but to express shock that she would have been subject to that. "Oh yes, I have been in the way on this whole journey so far." Her eyes filled, now, with tears.
"You have a right to the space you need," I said patting my wheelchair arm, "take it from me, I've learned this."
"The wheelchair, it is like a school then," she said laughing and said her goodbyes and thank yous..
"Yes," I said quietly to her retreating back, "The wheelchair, it is like a school then."