550 The Hobble Factor
A good bunch of years now with a cane as constant walking companion -- if you can call it walking. It offers some lessons in slowness, especially for someone who's been in a hurry (for no special reason) since infancy.
Fast to read, to walk, to talk, to swim. The slower world of canes can be startling even after all these years.
The enforced slowness comes from a small, stupid act, compounded by a small stupid injury, which turned into a large and long-lasting injury when the small, stupid act was continued instead of stopped.
First thoughts included "Okay, millions of people do this, it can't be THAT tough." And then there were thoughts like "which side does the cane go on? Which step -- if any -- does it match."
Asking probably would have brought quick answers. The Macho attitude brought answers, too, but not nearly as fast. And once learned, the protocol has to be practiced.
Anyway, here's what happens in this condition. The first thing you learn is that as slow moving traffic, you change the environment. People have to pass you and they don't quite know how to do it.
Some just brush by. Others make a big production of going around you. Still others are paralyzed with indecision.
You learn pretty quickly that the slightest incline has become a mountain. When did THAT happen?
Stairs? What, are you kidding?
A seat on the subway? Forget about it.
But one is forced to see more of the environment, now self changed, but which used to whiz past.
You have to look down a lot. In so-doing, you notice patterns of junk. Cigarette butts tend to congregate in patterns, for example. So do discarded candy wrappers. You notice wind direction. You realize there are pathways through knots of people -- and ways around them
You become conscious of many things you didn't previously notice -- which can be both good and bad.
If you're a student of sidewalk art, there's a whole world waiting for you. And there's a world of slow-step thinking time awaiting. The thoughts can be profound. They can run the entire gamut from "ouch!" to "Is there an elevator at this subway stop?"
People often look at you fun. "Oh, that poor old guy with the cane." And the reverse: "Here comes that mean old guy and I don't want to get in the way of that walking stick.
And you hear this a lot: "Oh, was that your bad leg I just hit? Soooo sorry."
--Are British crooks classier than Americans, or do they just commit classier crimes? The Royals have suspended a driver who took about 15-hundred dollars to give two reporters posing as middle east tycoons tours of the Queen's cars, the Rolls, the Bentleys and even the Benz she drives herself. Which leads to the question "what does an 80-something year old Queen with a household staff the size of the GM workforce doing driving at all and is she a danger to anyone else on the roads, as many 80-somethings are?"
--It's about Time(s.) The paper is about to make its all-free website pay for play. Anything within reason to keep the Grey Lady from the coffin that's beckoning her.
--Cynics and skeptics among us, rejoice. The Atlantis made it back to earth without burning up. Many secretly doubted NASA's party line, that the chips in the anti-heat tiles were minor. Turns out, they were.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2005, 2009