I do a lot of waiting.
Sitting beside my luggage cart passing time while Joe returns the rental car, I watch people rush by. Airports are odd places. People are in transit, from and to, here to there, leaving to arriving. They are, momentarily, off center, off guard. Faces become easy to read, body language screams even when someone is standing silent.
I notice a fit and athletic looking young man. I smile thinking that now young, to me, is 35 maybe 40. He is rushing.
Everyone is rushing.
I am sitting.
I feel like a crow on a wire.
He is momentarily confused as to which of the several check in counters he is to head for. When he stops, he rests his hand a little too firmly on the handle of one of the two pieces of luggage he has been pulling through the concourse. It is an odd piece of luggage for a man. It has a shiny, lime green hard shell. He is comfortable with it. Only a few years ago men would carry lime green baggage with an 'it's my wife's purse' look on their faces. But now, I'm distracted from my story. Shiny lime green hard shell luggage will do that.
As I was saying, before baggage interrupted me, he leaned too hard on the handle of his suitcase. The handle depressed, the lock giving way. Then it stuck. Almost as if in protest of him using it to rest against. As much as he struggled, he could not get it to extend again. It wouldn't budge. Finally he gave in and headed off.
Only now his gait had changed. So had his body shape. He no longer strode along with a 'tennis in the morning, ten mile marathon in the afternoon, ten pin bowling at night' stride. His shoulders were no longer manly and squared, one was high, the other low. His handsome face was etched with frustration. He had been altered. By a bright and shiny lime green hard shell piece of luggage. Its tantrum maybe why the bag is commonly called a 'carry on'.
Now people looked at him differently. they did not see the short handle, they saw the odd gait. They did not see baggage in the middle of a tantrum, they saw a human body moving differently. They saw difference. They saw disability.
Faces now registered that sad smile. That's 'it's such a pity, he has such a pretty face' look. Before they assumed a life of prowess. Now they assumed a life of distress.
Pity is like that. he's a lazy boy. He never checks his facts. Pity prefers stereotype because it runs on a mono rail.
For a few minutes that man walked in my shoes. I hope that when the handle is fixed, he will have learned something about difference. About pity. About assumption.
He didn't seem a vain man, so maybe it's not a vain hope.