|Photo Description: building underconstruction onf the south east corner of Yonge and Bloor, pedestrian walkways (tunnels) run round the building.|
To keep all us pedestrians safe, they've crafted wooden tunnels that we need to go through. They look rickety and like they'd never actually stop something heavy that falls from a great height, but they're there and we're supposed to feel secure. I don't think, honestly, about security when I go through them. I just think, 'shit they are narrow.'
All sorts of weird things happen when I go through the tunnels. There is more than adequate room for me to pass on one side and someone else pass on the other. But somehow many people lose their ability to measure space when I come towards them in the wheelchair. They fling themselves against the opposite walk, or put on scaredy-cat faces as they go by as if they are in huge danger. There's room, more than adequate room, but they are freaked out.
Needless to say, I don't like going through the tunnels but, also needless to say, I have to, that is if I'm going to be able to do my banking.
We are travelling again today and so yesterday, after work, Joe and I headed up to the bank. I was in the wooden tunnel and there were two young men coming towards me. They were walking side by side, chatting. They saw me and as they got close one tucked in just a little behind the other. There's nearly enough for two people to pass on that side. (See, I said there was adequate room.) And because he'd moved for me, I said, "Thanks." He said, "It's OK mate, no thanks necessary, you've got as much right to be here as we do." I almost steered into the side of the tunnel.
That's a response I'd not anticipated because I'd never had it.
His voice was casual, as if making this observation was so obvious that it was like a small joke.
On the way back from the bank, as I headed into the tunnel, I heard is voice in my mind, "It's OK, you've got a right to be here." It's amazing the power of positive words. They stay, they stick, they shore up courage, and determination, and belonging.
Because after all, though it's not a joke, I do have a right to be there.