"The stick's up my back."
He'd broken into my reverie. I was sitting on the sidewalk on Argyle Street in Halifax having a cup of green tea. Joe had gone to park the car and deposit the groceries to the room. I had noticed this spot when we got here last night and I loved the idea of just sitting outside and having a quiet tea.
After the day's presentation I was exhausted. Haligonians are a terrific audience, willing to both think and laugh, but I was still tired. We did a few chores after the day, banking, getting groceries, making a couple calls ... but then I asked Joe if he'd let me off at the coffee bar and let me go in and get a cup of tea and just sit quiet for a moment.
I don't stare at people, I stare into the distance but sometimes people come into my gaze. I never see them, I'm looking but not seeing. So when he spoke to me, I was startled.
"Pardon," I asked.
"The stick's up my back." He said, grinning.
"I don't follow." I was confused.
"You were staring at the way I was walking so I thought I'd tell you I've got a rod up my back." No hostility, he had light in his eyes.
"Oh, sorry, I wasn't staring, I was just looking into the distance." I was embarrassed.
"I know, I know," he said, "I saw you sitting here in your wheelchair lost to the world so I thought I'd say Hi."
"What's the thing with the rod up the back?" I asked warming to this friendly stranger.
"Oh, everyone says I look like I've got a stick up my ass and I correct them, it's actually up my back. I have a rod that supports my spine. It works but I walk ... well ... like I've got a stick up my ass."
He noticed a friend and waved, we chatted a couple minutes more and he said, "I'm getting a sense that there is more and more of a disability community. Like you can just chat like we did because we have common ground. Do you feel that way?"
I said, "I'd like to think that we're headed in that direction but I meet so many people who really don't want to be associated with another disabled person."
"Pity," he said.
"Really, I said.
But he's inspired me. I'm gonna start just chatting to others with disabilities just because we're part of the same community. And just because - we should act like it.