Monday, September 20, 2010

Who was that masked man?

Nancy and I went to the rib burn-off at Lake Shore Park Saturday evening. The trouble with the lake shore in September is that it can sometimes feel like the lake shore in November. This year, however, it seemed more like the lake shore in June. It is a wonderful thing to get out on a pleasant day and hang out in a large crowd of locals, and I ran into several people I haven't seen in years.

Almost from the moment I began having trouble getting around, I noticed a marked improvement in human nature, at least in those humans not associated with FOX News. One day, when I was still using a walker, I went to the Post Office to mail a package. When I finished at the window and started out, a woman I didn't know gave up her spot in the lengthy line and held the door for me as I went into the lobby and then followed me and held the door to the outside as I left the building. Making my way out the doors, I had visions of the Harris family going into a restaurant. Walking through the parking lot we looked like a typical family, but then Dad, Ed, Jim, Uncle Jim or I would bolt to the door and hold it open. And once the ladies got safely inside, the men would stand outside for fifteen minutes saying things like, "Go ahead," "After you," "No, you first."

In any event, when I am out and about and getting in the way of people or asking people to get out of my way, they are invariably understanding, cooperative and pleasant. Is this because people react differently to me because I'm in a wheelchair? Or do I see things differently from my wheelchair? It could be that when I was not so dependent on people's cooperation and helpfulness, I failed notice it when it was there. If someone got surly, I could always find a way around him, hurling imprecations as I went. Well, being a wimp, I lobbed my imprecations, getting great satisfaction from unleashing a string of expletives under my breath while avoiding the risk of having the other person hear them and reducing me to a pile of broken bones in a pool of blood.

This question arose again the other night at the rib fest. When I decided what I wanted to eat, I made my way to the end of the line for that vendor. There were a lot of people going this way and that, and the two guys who had been at the end of the line until I got there, moved aside to let me through. Just to be sure, I asked them if I was at the end of the line. They said "yes," and I told them that's where I wanted to be. Then they turned around, and for the next ten minutes talked to each other while I followed behind watching people. But when they got to the front of line, one of the men asked me what I was going to have. I told him, and a minute later, he handed me a plate with what I had planned to order on it and walked away. I was left wondering if he thought I was needy; which I'm not. Or if he felt sorry for me; for which there's no reason.
Or if he was someone whom I should have known but didn't recognize; which would be embarrassing. Or if he was just a nice guy who in a generous mood.

I appreciate his kindness, of course. But I feel like the guy on old western TV series, who said just before the final credits rolled: "Who was that masked man?"

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