When I was a child, there was a strip mall a couple blocks down with a dry cleaner’s at one end; and there wasn’t a day that Danny didn’t stand outside of it.
Danny was a slow-moving and happy man, and it was written all over his face that he enjoyed his life.
“Nice daaaaaaaaay!” he’d enthuse. Danny’s definition of a nice day ran the gamut of blue sky to rainy to full-blown blizzard. As far as Danny was concerned, every day was a nice day.
My interaction with the handicapped thinned as I aged. Once grown and forced into the real world, the typical single-occupant commute becomes a lonely affair; and people you don’t know but must contend with cease to be human beings and start looking more like obstacles. Dirty, stinking, law-breaking and potentially lethal obstacles.
Then I started riding the bus.
And it was confirmed that many human beings are, indeed, dirty, stinking, law-breaking and potentially lethal obstacles.
And that many are not.
The man at the bus stop this morning, a man I’ve known by sight for seven years, a man who now requires an electric scooter and has a terrible hitch in his breathing, asked me smilingly, as we waited in the rain, if we were “having fun yet”.
“Fun is a relative term,” I shivered, my nyloned legs goose-pimpling.
Downtown twenty minutes later, I watched from my seat as this same man and his scooter were hydraulically lowered from the bus to the street. He ran his scooter up the block only to return to circle, again and again, a woman in a wheelchair, a woman who smiled and shouted something at him that I could not hear.
I watched from the warmth of the bus.
Downtown! For cryin’ out loud, look at all the people! People in wheelchairs, people with canes and dogs, tiny people and people who must be well over seven feet tall…
Drunk with people-watching, I have rediscovered my fascination with human beings, a fascination that had not long ago faced suffocation.
Take my recent foray into a downtown retail store. There is a man there every time I am there, a man with a determined face pushing what appears to be a tennis ball affixed to the end of what may be a broom handle, removing the scuff marks that a disrespectful shoe can leave on a shiny white floor.
From the looks of him, he is quite a bit younger than I am.
I stepped aside to let him finish, and he did. I smiled briefly at him, and he stared at me.
“Tho,” he says. “You been buthy thinth high thchool?”
Why yes. I guess I have been.
And that’s when I realized I was having a nice day.
Which got me thinking: I’ll bet we’ve all been busy since high school. But how many of us recognize a nice day without it being pointed out?
In Praise of Ganapati
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