Image description: a line drawing of a counter with the words ‘public space’ written underneath
We headed up and when we got to the covered section of the street I headed in, driving carefully, ensuring that I left as much space as possible for those going south. It was awful. Four or five people threw themselves against the wall in sheer horror and panic. I kept saying, ‘there’s enough room, there’s enough room’ or ‘just walk normally, it’s ok’ as I went through. I was exhausted and dispirited at the same time. I understand the space around me, why can’t other’s do the same?
Joe and I did a couple of things and then we went to the post office. Joe had a parcel to mail and I had a whack of lottery tickets to check. As I approached I saw two young men crowded against each other on the narrow counter where the electronic ticket checker was located. When I was closer I saw that they were filling in tickets but not using the checker. I also could see that if I angled towards the counter there would be lots of room. After my experience of moments before, I almost decided against it. But, what the hell, it’s public space and I’m part of the, and this may shock you, public.
I got close and said, “Hey guys, do you mind if I check my tickets.” They looked up, saw me, had no reaction, and said, “Yeah, man, sure.” The passed the machine over to the corner of the counter where I was and then went back to doing their tickets. They were doing some sports kind of thing that I’d never seen before, picking teams or something. It was taking a lot of discussion and they were clearly enjoying the process. I simply went ahead and checked my tickets. It was a narrow space, shared by three people, all in close proximity but all having the space needed given the circumstance.
It shouldn’t shock me to have these kinds of experiences, but it does. To be looked at without remark, to be given space as an ‘of course’ rather than as a concession, to simply be in a space equally shared, wow. No. WOW.
I said nothing to the young guys, they said nothing to me. I did what I was doing, they did what they were doing. But I wondered.
Are they of the generation where they shared classrooms and hallways with people with disabilities?
Are they of the generation where diversity and difference is just a matter of course?
I hope so.
I mean they may just have been really nice young men.
But I hope that’s not it.
I really don’t.