Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crowd Control and Other Olympic Sports

My pals and readers who live beyond the 4 square blocks I tend to restrict myself to, they’ve been asking how It all went, life in the Olympic city. To them I can only say this.

The Olympics were here?

Wouldn’t have known it it in my neighbourhood. For that I’m grateful. Last thing I wanted to suffer was all the guidance. I can just see it. Crowds of red mittens grabbing at my elbows, trying to exercise some patriotic do-gooderness on the local blind guy.

But I did venture downtown once. Once. That was enough. Almost didn’t make it home.

One afternoon I took the Skytrain to Granville Station. Wanted to pick up a fancy mixer at the Bay for Tracy for Valentine’s Day.

Before you scoff, before you denounce my dippy choice of romantic gifts – yeah, yeah, nothing says love like a muffin production gadget – let me say Tracy has had it on her wish list for some time now. It ain’t just a mixer. This thing is a GPS, editing suite and a mobile surgical facility in a box.

And my plan was to get it for my gal, all those winter sports hooligans be damned.

The numbers weren't on my side, though. Sure were a lot of those folks around. Enough so that they packed the Skytrain like never before. So when we arrived at the Granville station, getting off wasn’t the usual breeze. The crowd slowly spilled out. Toothpaste-like.

Except me.

I was that last guy, the one who the doors close on. Only the doors didn’t close on me exactly, they closed on my white cane. Think of two teeth biting down on a toothpick, but sideways.

I wrenched and yanked, but couldn’t get my mobility aid out. The handle remained inside the car with me, but about 3 feet stuck outside, pointing in the direction I’d meant to go.

And then the train took off.

“Hey, that thing stuck?” an Olympic enthusiast asked, tapping me on the shoulder with his red mitten.

I gave up yanking and instead tried to lever the cane like an oar. No give.

"Well whaddya know,” I said, and wrenched again. “Who’d of thought.”

Three feet of cane continued to jut from our car’s door and greet the tunnel we were about to enter.

“Do you think it’ll clear the wall?” I asked.

“Uh oh,” said the red mittens.

We both stepped back from the cane’s handle, and waited to see what would happen. It was sort of like observing a feral animal that might be dead, or could be ready to pounce.

But the handle just hung there. The outside half didn’t seem to graze anything, or spark, or snap off. Not yet.

“Think you’re okay,” the mittens finally said.

As we pulled into the next station I imagined what it must have looked like to folks waiting on the platform, this cane sticking out of the door, cutting along like a scythe.

But no decapitations followed. Not that I know of.

Finally the car stopped, the doors opened, the cane fell into my hand, and what had been a scythe now returned to its gentler nature.

Now I could cheerfully be pissed off, about being lost at the wrong station and all that. Bloody crowds, bloody cane. Wait’ll I’m carrying an industrial-grade food processor, I thought.


  1. I can tell you, as a fellow East Van mobility-device-wielding local that yes, venturing downtown during the Olympics was an exercise in avoiding people craning their necks at the screens, and running the gauntlet of well-meaning blueberry-coated volunteers.

  2. LOL. C'mon. I loved the olympics. I loved making the crowds dance to the beat of my cane. A buddy and I waited 5 hours for 15 seconds of ziplining across Robson square. When we got to the top, there was a guy with a camera who did a short interview with me when I said I was blind. A few weeks later, a facebook acquaintance sent me a link to a BBC breakfast television piece that featured 10 seconds of me. Unfortunately my plan to scream like a little girl was shown in that clip. The interviewer also got my name wrong. And no, I did not flail my cane in front of myself while zipping over the crowds; it was folded up and strapped to my pack, which was strapped above me. See you at Napoli someday.