Monday, April 29, 2013

In memoriam.

We've never met. I knew her as @DanaWheels. We connected through Twitter, we communicated via my blog. Like me, she had Cerebral Palsy although I think she had some other conditions as well. She was much older than me, she was in high school when I was born and I believe her mobility was more limited than mine. We first started interacting last year. When I wrote a post about how people on the street tend to assume I'm homeless and sometimes give me money, she replied that she wouldn't mind if it happened to her, but nobody wanted to. When I started the discussion about electric versus manual wheelchairs in which some other users weighted in, I was saying that pushing myself gives me a sense of freedom. She was using a motorized chair because a manual one caused her some injuries, throwing her arm out and she appreciated the ease of use. When she read I was afraid of large strange dogs, she explained that she trained companion dogs for the disability community. She believed I could use one to help me with things, I insisted I wanted as little help as possible, human or animal. In turn, I wondered if she could have benefited from Conductive Education as I did growing up. Perhaps it could have made her more mobile, with better control of her body and as a result less prone  to injury. Her name was Dana Marshall. She embodied what I thought an adjusted person with a disability should be. Not afraid,  not ashamed, with an active life, confident and always standing up for herself. I could always count on her to react whenever I posted something about people blocking wheelchair access,  be it inconsiderate bikers or people in the restroom. We were thinking about working together. She got to my post in which I brainstorm about how to make my town more wheelchair accessible without getting a reputation for shutting businesses down. She explained she used to do ADA inspections and her idea was for her to come to Gainesville. She would roll around town visiting venues and I would be just the attorney, like the lawyers she worked with back home. My new project is somewhat inspired by her story. We connected sometime last year. Then at some point interaction ended. I didn't think much of it, we are all pretty busy people. Yesterday I found posts from her brief stricken husband, by a complete accident. Dana has passed away six months ago. It made me think how fragile life is. For a moment it made me ponder my own mortality and the type of legacy you leave behind. I always have these thoughts when I hear of yet another person with my disability no longer with us. But mostly I thought of what a loss it was to everyone. The amazing things she has done and would have done still, full life, interrupted. Of her husband. And then I decided to email him offering my condolences.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The inaccessible bathroom

I've written plenty about wheelchair accessible restrooms. How able bodied people use them as lounges, the condition they often leave them in. How I often face rude and crude behavior just trying to get inside and how transferring in and out my wheelchair with my extent of disability sometimes feels like an gymnastics routine and that it often takes time. But there are places that don't have a handicapped bathroom at all. I was reminded of it Tuesday night, when my bladder just wouldn't wait until I got home. I grew up without any accessibility accommodations at our house. Cerebral Palsy gives me some, although limited control over all parts of my body. Quickly I learned how to use the sink and the walls to balance my weight. Where to lean against the toilet seat. Where to grab and when to pull and how to estimate how much energy a particular move would make. To tell you the truth, I had to learn how to take advantage of the grab bars and at what angle to come at them from my wheelchair later on. Years of Conductive Education gave me a better balance. I took pride in being able to use just about any wheelchair unfriendly restroom out there. Yes, sometimes I'd be on my hands and knees or the wheelchair would just roll from underneath me, but I did what I came to do and I was able to go on with my night. A few weeks ago I was at a house party. My friends were concerned about me and how I would make it through the night if I needed to use the restroom. It was an old house and nothing inside felt wheelchair friendly at all. But I was in and out of there in 20 minutes. This however is not what I wanted to talk about. Tuesday night I was in one of the bars that had a restroom that gave me very little to work with. You know the type- the cabin is so small and tight that my wheelchair is just barely able to roll up to the toilet and you can't really close the door. You grab on to whatever you see that you can just for balance. A random piece of wooden wainscot.  I used to be much better at this and I've had more experience when I was younger. But I got heavier and also spoiled by the grab bars everywhere. It would help to have at least one point I can lean against, a single bar but there wasn't none. And you can clearly understand why. That particular bar  was exempt from provisions of Florida accessibility codes. It was grandfathered in- it was there before the law. If they started any construction, any renovation they would have to bring it up to code. And you can see why you wouldn't want to do it. It takes time, it costs money, it involves having to deal with standards and inspections. You'd think that any little thing would be better than having nothing at all, but I can also see how we don't want businesses to simply look like they are accessible when they are not, which what would happen if they put in random bathrooms and  to give venues incentives to do it all at some point. Anyhow, I have been in in that restroom before. I could have used a grab bar when my wheelchair rolled away from me so I decided to stand  up against the door. As I was readjusting my jeans I noticed a man was watching me from the outside as it is. He introduced himself and offered help. I was struggling enough as it is getting the chair aligned but there was no way for him to help me if he didn't know how. It was hot and humid in there and I already worked up a sweat. I really hate having an audience when I try to get back in my chair. I don't like being watched when I need to focus on something, it's like they are rushing me. Finally I pulled myself up using the sink they had out there. I was uncomfortable that somebody was there as I was making those really crucial movements. As I turned around I lost my shoe. As I finally adjusted myself in the sit I said, "I'm not used to meeting people with my pants down" and I laughed. I quickly decided I've earned another drink and I went on with my night.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Out of shape

On Friday I decided to see a movie on University of Florida's main campus. I could have waited on the Later Gator, a route that takes me directly to the building I wanted to get to, but I decided I didn't want to waste an hour on the bus stop. I figured, I could use a walk. My heart beats a little faster when I roll around the town. I opted for a city bus, a few blocks away. The weather was nice, I should be out more, I told myself. The driver on the bus 5 was an old familiar face. As we begun to catch up I realized I'm about to miss my stop. I didn't want to put her in an awkward position and just told her to drop me off at the next one. I could use a walk, I thought to myself again, and if it takes a bit longer, I'll just wait for the last showing of the film. What I didn't realize was that the next stop was quite a stroll away. Not only was the distance long, but what I didn't realize as I rarely get off in the area was that it was uphill all the way. The further I went the harder it was to roll ahead, and when you looked back you saw that you were pretty high up and not quite there. I knew I couldn't let go of the wheels as it would be quite a ride down and the stress combined with adrenaline were coming over me in phases. Once or twice a jogger or biker stopped by to offer help and yes, even help me up an even steeper curb cut. Up and up and up. And pretty scary looking down. It took me about 40 minutes to get back to the place I wanted to get off originally. I was developing blisters from the gloves I had on me, these were not designed to give me the right grip to climb hills in the wheelchair. I needed to cross University Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Gainesville that still terrifies me when I'm in the crosswalk. It would probably take 30 minutes, had I stayed on the bus until the bus came back on the other side of the road dropping me safely and stress free. But I also wanted to do this to see if I still can. I used to be able to do things like that. In 2006 I was renting an apartment in the very back of an apartment complex. To get out of there I had to wheel every morning for over 25 minutes up a very steep hill. It wasn't for exercise. It wasn't because I wanted to, it didn't even feel like something I had to do, it was just something I did every morning. I really had no feelings about it. I got used to it, it was part of my routine. I think I'd sing to myself in my head to make the time pass faster or went through to do in my head. I just used to do it. Coincidentally, my body fat was most likely at its lowest. I used to have what I called Popeye's  arms- they were just very wide. And I developed them pretty quickly. Now if I want to sweat a bit I need to plan for it. Back then I did it to get to the bus, it was a natural, organic part of my day. And I felt more energized than ever again. When you're in a wheelchair as much as I am, you need to move quite a bit to keep in shape, after all it's a lot of sitting . And it reminds me that I need to do it more. As I got to the building it turned out there was no late night show that night. I grabbed a sandwich and went home on a Lator Gator bus.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What if something happens?

"If you were home, you'd have somebody to help you"- said mom, on the phone from Warsaw, Poland, when I was most likely complaining about something that happened to me lately or a bit I wrote on my blog. Today I'm getting over a cold, as it keeps me stranded in bed, tired and grumpy. And yes, nobody is here to make me chicken soup. Yet, somehow I manage. It is in situations like these that we revisit the idea, old fashion as it might be or having somebody to reach out to. Who will take care of you when you are not at your 100 per cent? Who will hear you you when you need it help? What do you do if something happens? Who will know who to call when things goes wrong?

In 2008 I was leaving the law school at night when I assume something bit me. The bushes near the law school are populated by insects and other living things I could never name. As I was waiting for the bus my arms started to itch and I developed a mosquito bites like rash. I don't really know if it was just growing over time or if it was me scratching that made it worse, but something was going on with my body. On the bus the driver noticed that I looked swollen. My face begun to feel like it was getting bigger and bigger. I'm not quite sure if it was really happening or if it was mostly in my head as I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac but by the time I got off and started to roll through the parking lot to the very end of my complex I found it much harder to breathe. My throat felt like it was closing up. Speaking of reaching out to those physically closest to you, my roommates were not home and  not even picking up their phones. It was late at night, but I felt like I needed to go to the emergency room. As bad as I feel calling my female friends in situations like this, when they need to dismantle, load and unload my wheelchair, the only person I was able to get in touch with was Dee. She came because she knew I was in trouble. At the hospital she took care of the paperwork, waited around for the doctor and then took me home. I've had an allergic reaction to something. To my knowledge I was never allergic to anything before, but who knows what lurks in the Floridian bushes and trees. I was given Zyrtec, they waited for the swelling to go down and then sent me home with a prescription.  For the next day I mostly slept. Dee met me at the law school again, as she picked up my drugs for me and then swore that caterpillar of some kind  jumped on her in that same area and bit her. Yes, as I was in the parking lot of my complex struggling to get home and trying to breathe I did have thoughts like, what if it gets worse and I suffocate and they find me the next day? Who would call my family. But then, I found a solution. The people to help me get the help I needed. When I was hit by a bus in 2004 with my wheelchair ruined I was able to get the police to drive me home from hospital. In 2009 I poked myself in the eye and suffered an abrasion. Originally I was not even sure what happened, but for days I was very tired. I found it very hard to open my eyes. Getting up was a challenge and I would just fall back to sleep. I'm not even sure if I got to the infirmary by myself or if somebody drove me, but I remember mustering all the energy I had to get to campus. And I did. Weeks later, still on my antibiotic drops and with final projects due I greeted my parents who came for my graduation.  I don't remember what year it was, but I remember just meeting a couple who said how much they admired me after recognizing me from a newspaper. It was New Year's Eve, a karaoke party downtown. Suddenly, I noticed that I'm struggling to stay awake. I'd gladly lean my head on something and fall asleep. And it wasn't a healthy feeling. I needed help. So I found the couple and asked them to take me to the ER and they were happy to step away from the party and drive me. They had a truck, making transporting my wheelchair a breeze. I was diagnosed with a rhinovirus  and by the time I got home in the morning I've had full set of cold symptoms.  I think of myself as a bit of a survivor. Yes, I don't have family in Florida, I'm by myself, but I'm never alone. I'm surrounded by people. And yes, my limited mobility and wheelchair often makes things more complicated, but I adjust and I manage. I know how to reach out to others if I really need it. As nice it would be to have someone brew me some tea and fluff my pillow, but I think I'm doing   pretty good.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do you know what happens next door?

Have you ever thought about how little we know about our neighbors? You know, the people we meet by the mailbox or wish a good day to, yet often don't even know their names? Sometimes after time passes it's even embarrassing to ask or introduce yourself. They move in, you exchange basic pleasantries, then you assume they moved away because they don't seem to be around anymore. I don't how many times I've had a person come up to me and say: I know you, we lived in the same complex! Other times with those I actually recognized would tell me that while our paths used to cross for a smile or a hello, that brief second you make a human connection they had not lived there for months, a year or two. And I didn't even notice they were gone. I guess time truly flies. But in all those cases, as friendly as you get, it never got beyond a few lines, a joke. The guy with the take out box I shared a few laughs with or the man with the big black dog I jokingly called a horse. We were never friends, although we were friendly. And given how nice and open everybody is, you never really wonder who they really are. You share a living space but you know nothing about them.  You base your opinion on blink of an eye impressions, assume the best and try to see the best in people, yet you can't possibly know what goes on behind the closed doors.

On my way out to the bus stop every day I would pass by an apartment undergoing some serious reconstruction. The management found a dead house cat inside after the tenant moved away. I remembered the kitty- she would always sit on the window greeting everybody that walked by. It took them a few weeks just to get the smell out, they were ripping out the floors, replacing the cabinets. Day after day, the maintenance would drill and hammer working on something inside. For a while you could see the refrigerator pushed out to the middle of the living room. Apparently it was filled with maggots when they inspected the unit and they were looking for a way to sanitize it. Even to let stand and breathe before anyone came by and cleaned it. The floors were covered in trash left behind- paper cups and pizza boxes and wrappers. I don't consider myself the cleanest person by any means but this was beyond explanation. The complex expects to restore the apartment to the move out condition within reason. Every stain, a coat of paint, an item of trash means additional charges. That apartment required work beyond simple cleaning and it made me wonder, how can people live this way? The tenant seemed to have left behind most of their belongings, clothing and trendy electronics, perhaps as a way of set off    for the obvious debts they would face. We never understood what happened. Did they have a mental breakdown that nobody caught in time? We've met. Seemed like such a nice person. We shared a few hellos and a few smiles. And as the news spread throughout the complex everybody said: We would have never believed it,  such a pleasant neighbor! It really got me to think about how little we know about these who are often the closest to us in proximity. We assume we can understand them, because they feel like everyone else. Yet we can never know what a person thinks, what's hiding behind  a smile, what goes on behind closed door.

Friday, April 12, 2013

We are all limited

It's funny how life always seems to remind me that while my challenges are physical in nature, other people have other issues to overcome. I guess it's true that we are all limited in some ways and who is to say what is better? Consider this scene from a few months ago: I was worried that one of my neighbors  stays at his apartment, by himself and nothing but his faithful crossword puzzle to keep him company. I may have been stepping over an invisible line, but I figured, your early 20's is way too young to feel so old and burnt out. Everybody needs a little music and some company I figured, so I invited him to join us for karaoke. And he seemed excited to leave his little seclusion.  What can I say, I have a lot of friends and I make them easy, so yes- I like to be surrounded by friendly faces and I love it when I an get everyone to come together and have a fun time. There's only so much you can do to make everybody comfortable at a noisy bar and with everybody I know pulling me in all different directions it's even harder to pay attention to one single person. He chose to sit by himself far from everyone I knew, and by the time I returned from the restroom he was about to get up and leave. When I asked him what happened he explained that the set up of the room didn't make him feel included. I thought about it some more when I wrote my previous text.  You don't have to have a disability to feel excluded sometimes. Yes, you could say, it's a bar, everybody makes their own fun. He should have just pulled his chair closer and jump into the conversation at any point. But something about him, his personality, the way he was prevented him from being able to, not because he didn't want to.  A different friend has panic attacks often so strong they're's unable to function. And it's not something you can rationalize or easily explain. It's not about anything real or specific but it is real to them. And if you met it would not be something  you can easily reconcile with a fun and engaging personality.  Yet there were times the family had to step in and take my friend home. With me, you can see it. You know what I have. And it made me think about the one truly responsible agent. Our brain. Isn't it a bizarre instrument? It makes us who we are. Allows us to be, to create to think, but then it puts limitation on us. My brain makes me witty, and what I consider myself to be motivated, intelligent and fun but it prevents me from walking. My disability is not psychological in nature, but just like the issues some of my friends have it is rooted in the brain. It enables me in some ways, disables me in others. And I can't help thinking that everybody has something within them that prevents them from being exactly how they like to see themselves, in some cases it's just more visible than others.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Back in high school, one of my colleagues brought up an idea he had for wheelchair skiing during our English class. To him, the sport was the most fun he ever had. He was looking at me and he felt I was missing out. It was his passion that he wanted to share with me. He felt disappointed that there was something that he enjoyed and I couldn't participate. It was a sweet gesture, I felt although I never had interest in winter sports and even watching it made me want to change the channel. That's the thing. People always seem to see you through their limited perspective. They're sad for you because you can't run. They may pity you, because you can't effectively dance. They look at you and think about the hobbies and activities that they love and think about how much they would miss them if something happened to their mobility and they assume you must feel the same way. Perhaps it's because I never got to run or jump or jog, maybe it's because- I'm not a big sports person to begin with, but I never had these emotions. I never look at people running or dancing with any kind of envious longing, thinking " How I wish it was me". I don't have dreams in which I walk about in the meadow, I don't hunt the internet for any news of recent treatments of my disability. I'm not unhappy with what I have. What I do feel I'm missing out on- is the social aspect of these activities, because it's easy to just leave me behind. Often trying to include me in various things takes time, energy and planning- an effort so I wouldn't be excluded. In elementary school I could have been fun with my friends one moment, and the next they would just walk away from me distracted by something and I couldn't chase after them. In high school I would mostly be assigned to selling drinks and tickets at dances, because the concern was that if I got up on the dance floor nobody would pay attention to me. At school trips the whole class would go to explore some medieval church or an old theatre and I would just stay behind, because I knew it was not worth my father's health to even attempt joining in. It's the feeling of not being able to be part of something, something that everyone else did, that made me feel different. An odd man out. "There are stairs up to the place, but wait, we'll be only a minute"- if  only I had a dime every time I heard it. It's not so much the activity, but the un-ability to do things with others, like others that got me to think about my disability and what it meant at a very young age. What can you do? You learn to live with it. A few years ago I went to Puerto Rico with my friends for what I now consider one of the best weeks in my life. They did plenty to have be included in most of the things the group did. We were kids, we were crazy, we had fun. But one day they decided to go explore the rain forest. They felt odd at first realizing that I would stay at the hotel, that this would be one thing I won't get to do with them. I didn't care about nature that much,  the heat, the insects, the various venomous animals were anything but appealing, but deep down I wanted to be with my friends. It's not even that they were gone long or that they had stories to share. I was fine staying in the room with my "Lessons in Spanish". But I just hate not being able to do things or being places sometimes...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Identity theft

It's sounds like a suspense novel. On Friday I found a letter in my mailbox from Susan A Blair, MSJ, MBA,CIPP, CCEP, CIA, University of Florida's Chief Security Officer telling me that the Secret Service and the IRS have concluded that my personal data might have stolen by a state wide identity theft ring. Apparently it happened months ago, in October, but they only inform me now, because the law enforcement agencies didn't want to harm the investigation. They believe that some of the data may have been sold, and while they can't be sure what sensitive information might have been revealed, the person responsible- who was later identified as an employee of the UF clinic had access to my address, name, social security, date of birth among other things sufficient to apply for a credit card or two. Oddly, while they are certain the information is personal and not medical, and they have confirmed that this employee handled patient data improperly they didn't specify what exactly he was looking at and how. As an attorney I'm not too concerned about my address being public, because it already is. As an attorney licensed in two states I'm required to have them listed in both bars registries as I don't maintain an office. I'm lucky that the other data didn't ruin my credit history and financial reputation although with it being sold I have no guarantee that it will not happen nine months down the line. The most bizarre bit is that I've graduated from UF last three years ago and there's really no reason for anyone else other than alumni affairs to have access to any of my data. I've only given my current address to the law school so they can send me their invitations and newsletters.  This situation raised some obvious questions about the safety of my personal data that the letter did not answer, but also about UF's procedures relating to handling information like this.
1. Is it that all departments and all units can answer all information on past and current students or is it in anyway limited to their areas of expertise?
2. Is there any security filter limiting access to social security numbers or are they as easily accessed as the name and address? Are there different levels of access for different types of information or can a large group of people pull all my information at once?
3. Why isn't there a procedure that obscures the data stored about the alumni? Clearly, as we don't use any of the services students do, it doesn't need to be as readily available.
4. How large is the number of employees that have access to complete personal data and do they have to have any special training to get it? Are there different levels of access within departments?
5. Is UF currently evaluating its' procedures in regard to this matter?
6. How large is the group of students and alumni affected?
7. How can UF be sure that the data was only personal and not medical in nature? Are there different safeguards in place for information about health?

I believe that in the interest of students, the alumni, it's own reputation, UF should address this issues publicly.

Friday, April 5, 2013


People using wheelchair accessible bathrooms when they don't really need to, often blocking it for a really long time and having an attitude about is one issue. I might add, a big one. Patrons trying to force themselves into one while a person with a disability is still inside is another. And I've written about both. But the problems don't end here. As much as I really don't want this blog to be a series of recollections of things that happen at the handicapped restroom, consider the events of last Tuesday night. Energized by the Gainesville spring weather I opted for an early dinner at the Top, one of my favorite venues. My other "bathroom stories" also take place there. This time I found not two, not three, but four girls leaving the wheelchair cabin, but I wasn't too annoyed so I didn't make a big issue out of it. It's not that they were there, that was upsetting, it's what they did while they were. Somebody apparently thought it would be a good idea to stuff entire sheets of paper towels into the toilet. And when that happens the toilet just doesn't flush. And when it doesn't flush, you really can't use it. I will never understand people who leave a restroom as if nobody else would be using it after them. Not only not cleaning up their own messes, and I understand that sometimes accidents happen, but acting as if to prevent somebody else from going in. Making it dirty, messy, non-functional, and never even alerting the staff. Because if I can't use the wheelchair bathroom there is no other place in the venue I can go to while a able-bodied person will just go to the next one. Maybe for that reason some places even lock them. Otherwise I have to go back to the bar and tell the servers the bathroom is not clean and safe for me to use. That's what happens at The Top or Starbucks and then I wait for them to clean. Some venues don't. When I complained that I needed to use the restroom at Market Street and the seat was covered in a brown substance, I've heard- "Why are you telling me" from people who work there. In other places I risked touching a urine covered seat or risking slipping and kneeling in a smelly puddle because nobody cared. And all after running a considerable drinking tab. And sometimes, yes, I had to get over how gross something was about the toilet to sit on it or touch it, feeling  very humiliated as a result. And no amount of alcohol makes me forget about that

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring is here and it shows

I've had a stressful couple of weeks. My Big Project that I plan to announce soon seemed to be coming apart. The original excitement of people who decided to join me seems to be dying down. The longer we wait the further we are from what we planned. The DC Bar gave me a month to produce evidence to their satisfaction that I have Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair. I was able to get a doctor to assist me in that, but with a deadline a week away, I still don't have a note to send off and I'm very nervous. I've had a lot of things happen to me but never did anyone claim that I'm not "disabled enough". I have videos, articles written about me, some speaking engagement but a scarce medical file. I've only lived in this country for nine years, never treated for anything serious I'm still trying to look up the documents from the university outlining my accommodations just to have a back up, but I guess I lost it three apartments ago. Over the Eastern weekend I was working on the application to the Leadership Academy- a new program within the Florida Bar to promote professionalism, integrity and diversity. 40 young attorneys will be picked every year and have their skills brought to a new level. I felt stressed, pulled in multiple direction. The cold weather made it worse. Getting out of bed was not an exciting perspective at all. I felt heavy, tense and tired. The weight of all my problems seemed to press down on  my wheelchair. But today was a wonderful day. I figured I need to clear my head and change perspective. I've contacted the Florida Bar to make sure that they got all my documents and from that point on a burden was lifted. I've decided to go for a walk. It was warm and sunny. You could smell Spring in the air. I was not even nervous when I was crossing one of the Gainesville's busiest street. The sun was out, trees and plants were vibrantly green. And I remembered how much fun I would have making it a weekly effort to go downtown. The fun I used to have with my friends. The restaurants and little venues I would go into and explore, some that are no longer around. And I thought about how much I grew to like this place, Gainesville, how much it became mine over the years. And then I wanted to celebrate spring with having a nice dinner. I felt joy. I felt so content that I didn't even mind that I left the money I've set aside for drinks at home. I've had scallops, because it's been a while and I did go for a dessert  - their new choco flan. I was celebrating with absolutely nothing in particular to celebrate and I decided to spend the night at karaoke while checking out other places. The smell of the season I just can't explain. Winter is over, Spring is here and it shows.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Nobody's perfect

There's a scene that I see from time to time riding the Gainesville bus system. A middle aged, I assume homeless man tries to board carrying a few plastic trash bags with him. His shoes are falling apart, the bags seem heavy and stuffed. The drivers often tell him that they are not allowed to take him unless he leaves them behind. But sometimes they take pity on him and let him get on, even getting the wheelchair lift out him so it'd be easier for him to take his belongings. I've heard that he collects  actual trash. People have seen roaches coming out of the bags he carries. When he is told to throw them out not much later he replaces them with a different set. Just as stuffed and as heavy as the ones before. If you've lived in Gainesville long enough you probably know him by name. And you get used to seeing him as he says hello passing by. You never know when and where he's going to pop up next, as I've seen him trying to get on buses going in all directions. He is quite a fixture and he likes to talk to random students he meets on the bus. Most of the time they respond, engage in conversations, probably curious who this strange person might be. Where's the story in this you might say?  The uplifting part is that most of the riders and respectful, kind and softspoken when talking to him. They even do small things for him like call someone on their phone when he asks. He seems and is harmless, but his attire and yes, smell is off-putting to some. Many are kind enough not to notice, but on one occasion I saw a girl cry as soon as he got off the bus. They were having a nice conversation. She was polite, he wanted to know as always, what she was in school for and told one of her stories. But then he left. As soon and she started to cried I turned to her and asked what was wrong. She explained that as much as she wanted to focus on him as a person, his needs, stories and problems, she couldn't get pass the way he smelled. She was very disappointed with herself, that she couldn't ignore it completely. Sadden, angry and surprised by her own reaction she started to cry. I guess she felt like a failure, because she couldn't separate the body from the spirit. Although we are told that beauty is on the inside and the outside doesn't make a man she couldn't bring herself to do it. She wasn't disrespectful- but she wanted to be better than all of those that would judge him. For all that we are told about loving others unconditionally, helping those in need, she couldn't unconditionally accept him, because of something as trivial as smell. I told her she was being too hard on herself. I thought it was amazing that she would even have an afterthought like this, but we really can't help how we react to certain things. It doesn't make us bad people. Yes, it's good to have an ideal in our head about how we are going to be relating to other people. But we are not perfect. And we don't control how we feel. Perhaps sometimes our own behavior surprises us. Maybe we don't know ourselves the way we did. Maybe how we see ourselves doesn't always match how others do and the image in our head is different from what we project.  I think we all like to think of ourselves as most open, most accepting, most giving, most loving. We'd like to think of ourselves as evolved. But we are all flawed. And I think part of the process of learning who you are comes from accepting that you are only human. Humans make mistakes.