Tuesday, November 20, 2007


We left Newcastle and headed up the A1 on our way to Glasgow via Edinburgh ... there are shorter ways but we wanted to drive along the coast and though it was a gray and rainy day - the beauty was undiminished. Around one we began to feel peckish so decided to stop at a travel center place and grab a bite to eat. I love these places, they have restaurants and stores and lots of stuff to browse through.

We went into a chain restaurant kind of place and they sat me at a table near the reception area, it was a nice table, I was out of the way, and I could look out the window at the steady flow of people in and out of the center. We ordered our food, got our hands on a hot tea, and sat back to relax. This is our last day off, the next 19 working days I will be lecturing somewhere. The packet telling me where I'm going to be was lost and and and a new one is being frantically prepared, all I know is that Tuesday is Glasgow. After that I'm stymied.

As we were having lunch I noticed the bus boy, or rather I noticed his chest. He was a good looking young man of about 20, a hard worker, and was easy with his plesantries to the other staff and guests. But what I really noticed was a tag, upside down, on his shirt right beside his name. I think the idea was for it to blend in with the name, but I'm a 'watcher'.

When he came by, I asked him what the sign meant. It said "4 X 16 X W". He looked at me and said, "You don't know?" I shook my head. "Oh, I can tell from your accent that you aren't from here." I quickly told him that I was from Canada as I get tired of being mistaken as an American (nothing against Americans, I'm just not one). "Oh, he said and moved off leaving my question unanswered.

A little later he came by the but sign had changed to "100% B 2 L". And he saw me attempting to read the upside down tag. He came by and said, "You from around here?" I told him, again, we were from Canada. "You were looking at me so I thought maybe I knew you." I explained that I was more looking at the tag than at him.

"You want to know about the tag?" he asked.

I told him I did.

He pulled up a chair and said that he'd had a fairly serious motorcycle accident and sustained some brain damage. When he got out of hospital, everything was difficult because while he could physically do everything, his memory was 'crap'. He had been head waiter at this restaurant and it was obvious he couldn't do that anymore but his employers wanted to keep him on, good worker and all. So they came up with a system that marks his duties down one at a time. At particular times of the day, he takes off one tag and puts on another.

"This tag," he says, "is to remind me that right now we are changed over 100 per cent of the tables over from breakfast style settings to lunch style settings. The tag before ... um ... do you remember what it was." I did and told him it was 4 X 16 X W. "Oh, that means that I'm taking care of those tables there by the window.There are 16 tables in 4 rows."

He explained that the system messed up when they had special parties or holiday events but for the most part he did just fine. Loved having a job and working. As he left, he told us that if we came back, on own way down from Edinburgh, stop in but not to think he was rude if he didn't remember us. Most of the diners at the place know him, his family, the circumstance. They just introduce themselves again, "You do the same."

We said he would.

On the way out I nudged Joe to look at the wall beside the cash register. A black felt board hung there with all the tags that would take him through his shift. He looked to be about half done.

And fully supported


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Dave, this is off topic, but I just now belatedly realized that I should have made a special point of making sure you were aware that this was going on:


This link has information about an on-line discussion forum via email HAPPENING THIS WEEK about a draft guidance note from the UNFPA about the sexual and reproductive health of people with disabilities. For the details, follow the link above (which leads to yet more links)

I realize that you're traveling so I don't know how much you can access email this week. But I hope to see you on the mailing list, even if briefly. I'm sure you would have a lot to contribute to the discussion.


wendy said...

I love this story! If only there were more employers with that kind of desire to figure how to support someone who needs it rather than just declaring them unable to their job anymore!

rickismom said...

This is a really heart-warming story! What a tremendous and lovely idea of a way to support!

Kei said...

What a great story and how awesome that everyone figured out how to support him.

It's snowy & cold outside here in Western Massachusetts, but thanks to you I am all warm & cozy on the inside.

Naomi J. said...

That story has me, a hard-hearted b*tch, on the verge of tears. How amazing. And how very Social Model...

Anonymous said...

Great story.
I'm glad you are enjoying your time in Scotland. We spent the summer there last year. We had a blast. I often wondered, though, how somebody in a wheelchair would be able to make it down some of those cobbled streets. I had a hard enough time with a stroller. Edinborough castle was a nightmare!
Here's a picture of my young lad in his kilt that I just had to share with you: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v189/adamsmommy/skilt1.jpg

Enjoy the rest of your trip & come back with lots of stories to tell.


Anonymous said...

It is this kind of story that makes me feel inspired, and hopeful. Good for the employer to see the value in their employee!

Julie said...

That was an amazing story to hear. I have just recently come to your blog as I was just at the conference in Trenton and am glad that I am able to read it daily.
Thanks for the smile!

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