I didn’t need to hear that

It’s amazing how often people talk as if I’m not there. It happened yesterday, when I was in my local cafe.

My powerchair has a large pouch on one arm. It’s my multi-purpose receptacle. As I go about my daily business, everything goes in there. Train tickets, credit cards, receipts, change, plastic bags, several phones, tools and assorted extras. My wife’s handbag has nothing on my pouch! On this day, sitting in the cafe alone, I decided to tidy my pouch.

At a table directly across from me sat a group; a family with mum, dad and two young kids. One child was a toddler, intent on exploring his world and keeping his parents very busy. In a pram was a tiny baby, perhaps only a month old. I remember that life stage. It’s not easy. The dad, in particular, was run ragged. After a short time they were joined by the mum’s parents. She was Malaysian and spoke with almost no accent. Her partner was a New Zealander. They were discussing where they should settle. The dad was concerned that, if they stayed in Australia, he would be stuck in a sales role his whole life. His partner was informing him that he had responsibilities and couldn’t simply choose what he wanted. ‘You New Zealander’s have no work ethic’ she chastised him. Her parents seemed to have more limited English but every now and then they nodded in agreement with their daughter’s points.

I have to admit, I felt sorry for the bloke. He was chasing his toddler all over the cafe, and each time he returned to grab a sip of his coffee or a bite of his toasted sandwich, the topic had moved on to another of his weaknesses. Occasionally he would offer a word of disagreement, but then his toddler would dash, he would follow, and his wife would continue on topic. So mostly it was his wife talking, and her parents nodding. But I could tell he wasn’t happy. He looked increasingly hurt, and embarrassed as the minutes passed and the topic didn’t change. I was only a metre or two away; I could hear every word.

All the time this was going on, I was unloading my pouch contents onto the table and slowly consuming my coffee. There was a lot of change. I had it piled up in denominations on the table in front of me. It’s amazing how fast $1 and $2 coins add up. It was time well spent. The group beside me had now finished. As they packed up, I heard the dad comment to the others ‘I guess we don’t have it so bad. We’re luckier than that guy trying to scrape together enough coins to pay for his coffee.’ On that, they all agreed.

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