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Thread: We See Them

  1. #1
    No One of Consequence wilomn's Avatar
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    We See Them

    We See Them

    The ones that don't fit.

    The Vet on the offramp. The homeless guy in the Super Market parking lot. The lady with the cart full of plastic bags and newspapers. The legless guy in the wheelchair at the gas station. The descriptions are endless.

    How did they get where they are? Too much substance abuse? Insurance run out at the psyche facility? Too independent to accept help, or what passes for help? Just born unable to cope or make it on their own? An accident?

    Some want money. Others offer blessings. Some say nothing. Some rant. Some lie and some would tell the truth if they knew what it was.

    Mostly they are alone, at least when I see them. Occasionally you'll see a pair or maybe a small group, but almost always, they are alone. Those are the extremes, edge people walking Occam’s Razor every moment of every day; likely to disappear without notice.

    Then there are the ones that sort of fit. They’re not walking that edge, they try to be a part of the whole that we as a group bring into existence, but sadly fail. They’re the not-quite-rights. Brains not quite functioning at full capacity, bodies lacking in the ability to function as fully as most, bent or twisted limbs, malformed or unusually shaped, almost able to care for themselves. They’re smart enough to know that they don’t quite fit in.

    Group homes are all a lot of these folks know.

    There was a man in a parking lot today. He walked with a hitch in his step, obviously not functioning smoothly and properly the way most of us do. He walked slow too and didn't seem to be aware that my car and I were waiting for him to move out of the way. He didn’t look around as he walked, his attention was fixed on the road in front of him.

    He walked slowly, every fourth or fifth step with a hitch to it, breaking the rhythm of his ambulation in front of the parking place I wanted to pull into. His arm cradling a lightweight jacket in the manner that indicated, to me, that his walking was not the only thing he did not do well, clutched in to his side, elbow held slightly behind his back and the jacket pinned between his arm and his side, not held in the hand which was curled, resembling a claw more than a regular fingered appendage.

    As he crossed, the hitch regularly making his tread uneven, he pseudo-stumbled every tenth or maybe fifteenth step. The man was not faking it, he was actually stumbling but never really went all the way into a loss of balance that resulted in a fall. It was something he seemed accustomed to, something he had obviously been doing for quite some time.

    I parked my car and began walking the same direction as he was. I passed him, he taking his small hitched steps with the pseudo-stumble that seemed to almost tip him over each time it occurred, and as I watched him he took his lightweight black and grey jacket out from under his arm to put it on.

    His hand, the one that had resembled a claw, functioned well enough for him to manipulate the jacket, seeming to be just a normal hand so long as he did not have to wedge the jacket between his upper body and the arm the hand was attached to. I don’t think his arm bent as it should have.

    It was a reversible lightweight black and grey jacket. No matter which side was out, the zipper would zip, the pockets would pocket, the hood would cover his head if he wished it too.

    The thing is, when he finally got it on, and it was not the smooth motion or two most would need for so simple an action as putting on a lightweight jacket while walking across a parking lot, there were several attempts to reach behind him to grab the jacket, each of which were terribly unsuccessful, his arm just wouldn’t bend or fold enough to let him reach all the way behind him. When he finally did grab hold of it he had managed to put it on upside down without realizing that he had done so. The hood was hanging down past his rear and the band of elastic was around his shoulders. He obviously had no clue that he had managed to don his jacket this way.

    I passed him by, able to ambulate much quicker and with far greater ease than he would ever manage and as I did so I wondered to myself if I should say something to him.

    He was not a normal person, whatever normal is, and I pondered whether or not to say anything to him at all. After all, if he managed to put it on that way, he probably wouldn't notice anyhow and if he didn't notice anyhow, why bother to tell him? Would he be embarrassed by his upside down jacket? Was he capable of being embarrassed by his upside down jacket? Was that really the Lithium Shuffle he was doing or was he just physically unable to do as most can? Was I obligated to tell him about his inability to wear his jacket? Would he appreciate my mentioning to him that he was unable to properly dress himself? Did I really care what this guy did?

    I had never seen him before. It was unlikely I would ever see him again. If I made any comment to him, it would invite further conversation and that is something I don't do with most regaurdless of their ability to walk or dress. Did I really want to talk to this guy at all?

    If it were me, would I want someone to tell me that I had managed to goof up on something so simple as putting my lightweight jacket on properly? If I told him, would it obligate me to talk to him, to maybe have him hope that I would? Would that lead to him considering me someone who would then be there to talk to in the future? Why would I have such thoughts, concerns, wonderments? Is this a fault, this wanting to be helpful but not wanting to be involved; to be unable or unwilling to give enough of myself to allow that someone may be disappointed in what I didn't have, couldn't give?

    Would this simple act of kindness lead him to consider me as one from who further kindness would be forthcoming? Would it be kindness to tell him and then go on my way, assuming that I would never see him again but knowing, deep down, that I would never forget him, his shuffle, his stumble, the way he clamped the jacket to his side instead of holding it in his hand or over his arm the way most guys do?

    Would it be a simple act of kindness? He would have no way of knowing any of these thoughts that ran through my mind in the seconds it took me to observe him as I parked, to see him in front, beside and then behind me in a matter or moments as I stepped on past him, and yet I had them, these thoughts, and many more like them.

    Suppose, like most who do not look and move the way the majority do, he had been on the receiving end of unkind words or gestures, maybe even physical meanness because of how he moved and carried not only his lightweight jacket but himself as well. Suppose my saying he had his jacket on upside down was just another in a long series of humiliations that others had heaped upon him. Not that I would mean it as such but that he would take it that way from habit, from having others treat him as less than they would someone like me; someone able to walk easily, to grab my jacket with my hand, to hear them in their car behind me, someone who was not an easy target, which he obviously was.

    I've seen it many times. No doubt you have as well. Those who stick out as this man did are subject to unkind attentions. All this, all these thoughts running through my mind, many more as well but those gone to quick to make a lasting dent in my thought process, in less that 30, maybe 45 seconds.

    What would you have done?

    There is a follow up, a SHORT follow up, telling what I did. I'll post it up in a day or two. But I’m curious to know what you would do.

    ________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________

    I passed the guy, he shuffling and almost stumbling, me moving along at my normal pace, easily maneuvering around and past him as I thought all the thoughts I've written above.

    One thought though kept coming up out of the maelstrom of my mind, beating the others to my attention, scant nanoseconds though that attention was. It was sort of like reading a post with all lowercase letters, all flowing smoothly, easily readable, there to see and read again and again, except that this one thought was written all in CAPS, standing out whether or not I was paying attention, obvious by it's colour and size if not by content.

    WHAT WOULD YOU WANT HIM TO DO WERE YOUR SITUATIONS REVERSED?

    There and then gone. There and then gone.

    So, I turned around and walked back to him and said, "Hey, you've uh, got your jacket there on upside down."

    He sort of gave me a blank look, to me seeming to try to figure out not only why I was talking to him but what I was saying and then replied, "No I don't, it's reversible."

    "No," I said back, "I don't mean it's inside out, I mean you've got the hood hanging beneath your backside."

    Here's where all the little thoughts, all the sad thoughts for this guy’s life came to the fore.

    "I'm sorry," he said as he tried to get it off, fumbling with the sleeve, "I didn't mean...." at which point I sort of cut him off by saying, "No, hey, no need to apologize to me, I just thought you'd like to know," and then I proceeded on my way, walking easily, not stumbling or out of breath, knowing, hoping, knowing that I would never see him again and feeling both good that I told him and REALLY sorry for the life that he told me about with his apology to a total stranger for failing to put his jacket on hood side up.

    I've worked with, lived with at resident camp with, done reptile presentations at schools for, had some experience with both physically and developmentally disabled people, had a brother who was a care taker at a group home, been in state run facilities for these people, and seen plenty of just plain mean and cruel people do really f'd up things to people like this, not that he was mentally disabled, though I am sure there was something not quite up to par there, but I've seen some ty stuff and his apology, so simply and quickly given, even the sincerity of it, he really seemed to mean it, told me volumes about this guys life and how he had been treated.

    I'm glad I told him and sad that I couldn't/wouldn't do more.

    I'm caught on occasion saying, "those who can should," and while I mean it, I don't put it into practice as often as I could. This too was a thought scurrying about the hindbrain as all this took place.

    I've waited a couple of days to respond because I was trying to decide if I wanted to let as much about me out as would be necessary to explain it to the general public. But, I started this thread and as I've said, "those who can should," and I can, sometimes do, should more often, and maybe someone else will because of it.

    Well, for once I'm out of words.
    Last edited by wilomn; 12-23-2011 at 11:35 AM.
    I may not be very smart, but what if I am?
    Stinky says, "Women should be obscene but not heard." Stinky is one smart man.
    www.humanewatch.org

  2. #2
    No One of Consequence wilomn's Avatar
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    I think about this guy. Not all the time, but often enough. What am I reminding myself of when I read this? What was I trying to say when I wrote it? What do I want people who read it, having never seen this guy in particular, but most likely having seen his counterparts in other parking lots, to think, to take away from it?

    Those answers change. Sometimes I remind myself that I'm lucky to be who I am, to have what I have. Sometimes it's to remind me that others are not as fortunate as I am, which is almost the same thing, but not in exactitude. Sometimes I wonder if I saw him so I could write about him. And sometimes I wonder if I wrote about him because I had something to say or if, in my arrogance, I have spoken, unasked, for him.

    I know I wanted to somehow bring this guy, who I think most of us would look at and never see, unless maybe to snicker when he stumbled, out into plain view.

    Well, now you can see him if you look. I guess it's made me think of how and why I treat people the way I do and I guess I was hoping to make others think the same things; how and why. Not about the guy I saw, but about all of his cousins out there in your local parking lots and schools and playgrounds, grocery stores and malls, everywhere that any of us go.

    I hope this guy, and his multitude of cousins (all the ones from the Island of Misfit Toys as it were) finds friends and people who care for them, about them. I suppose I hope that for all of us as well.

    Heh, two minutes of my life years ago and I'm still thinking about it like it just happened.
    Last edited by wilomn; 12-23-2011 at 12:08 PM.
    I may not be very smart, but what if I am?
    Stinky says, "Women should be obscene but not heard." Stinky is one smart man.
    www.humanewatch.org

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