Friday, October 21, 2011

Lunch With Daniel

Good evening, dear devoted reader. Tonight we take a deviation from the normal everyday Popular Irony drivel, and I share with you a tale of sophistication and exciting chance encounters with people of a specific unfortunate genetic condition, Down Syndrome. Please curb your assumption that this will be a shameful story of ridicule, as I have nothing but reverence for the so afflicted population. I will not be using degrading terminology like retard, dingbat, wacky hump, noodle chaser, or flipper head. And being a man of science, I see great possibilities in the evolution of man into a primate with 47 chromosomes. So enjoy a guilt-free read.

I was coaxed into joining a co worker named Daniel for a much needed lunch break, and with myriad options for casual dining we settled on a staple franchise of the American business elite, Wendy's. The atmosphere was predictably depressing, crowded with people I would rather kill than befriend, and I remember I took note about the number of cowboy hats, which is never a good sign. And after we were served by a transparently gay smiling man with a perm, Daniel and I sat to enjoy our gastronomic discourse.

It was at this early juncture in our meal that we noticed a rather loud entrance of a group of four severely disabled men led by a seemingly outmatched, but clearly persistent man in a blue windbreaker. This pleased me, as a room ALWAYS becomes more exciting with the addition of full grown men that cannot be held accountable for their actions. The sight of these four men reminded me of something a friend once told me. She had worked as a caretaker for disabled people, and she claimed there was a rule when dealing with a group of mentally disabled people: you never mix male and female patients. Apparently if you turn your back for more than thirty seconds they will become locked in semi-consensual fornication. And if you ever want to witness true determination, look no further than the struggle of a 130 pound woman trying to break the rape embrace of a 300 pound virgin with NO potential for alternative mutual sexual opportunity.  But I digress.

The afflicted men noisily took there seats at the table behind me, with gentleman Daniel facing them. We were conversing about how to best subvert authority at our workplace and position ourselves for managerial mutiny, when I heard a loud cough from behind me. My first thought was "I sure hope this man's caretaker knows CPR, because I would rather not watch this simple brute choke to death", but then I realized he was entering the throws of violent regurgitation, the sound of wet splatters on paper burger wrappers with inhibition-free coughing and choking noises echoing through the room, which slowly subsided while I continued to face the opposite direction. I looked at Daniel to share my disgusted expression when he spoke "You're lucky. I watched the whole thing."

My curiosity got the better of me and I turned my attention to the spectacle behind me. The caretaker of the group was calmly mopping up vomit with an armful of napkins (he had apparently prepared for this possibility), entirely ignoring the splash damage to his windbreaker. The man who committed the offence was digging into the rest of his meal with unbroken resolve, and unwashed hands. Daniel abandoned his half eaten chili and watched me finish my burger with an empty stare in his eyes. And this is a man who has seen combat.

We all regard these interactions with the handicapped with complete tolerance, as we are all reminded of our own more fortunate circumstances. For me, I will always remember the amazing man that took vomit at point blank range and responded with compassion. And in exchange for performing this unpleasant but necessary function for us he probably gets paid comparably to the teenage staff of the Wendy's we were in. Thank you, under-appreciated hero.

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