Standing on the corner of Wells and Kinzie streets in Chicago, overwhelmed by the sounds of crashing elevated trains, honking cars, fire trucks, clicking heels, chatting people, engines and screaming traffic cops. Combine all those sounds with the smells of perfume, exhaust, acrid electrical stench from the trains and the occasional whiff of sewage. Add to this the blowing wind, the bump of an occasional shoulder, and a moment in a crowded elevator - all of these overloaded sensory “pings” are part of the delightful experience of the big city. Delightfully exhilarating for me that would likely prove an absolute horror for Bethany.
The frightful, echoing scream of a fire truck – a sound so strong you can smell it as well as hear and feel it, would drive her already hyper-sensitive tolerances to madness. Each single sensory experience would represent a different, sharp, kitchen utensil searing through her soul.
I could never bring her here. Could never get her to Navy Pier, likely won’t walk down the Magnificent Mile with her. The risk to me combined with the cost and pain to her is simply not merited. The sounds alone would crash through her skull like a hammer through a window, resulting in a violent outburst of anger and fear that’s impossible to contain. She’d find delight in the uneven sidewalks, tripping over the curbs, laughing along the way. I’d find horror in the uneven sidewalks not for the physical tripping hazard but for the emotional tripping hazard, the low tolerance for her social status that others trip over and stare at. Walking with a special needs person, you quickly notice the biases of the “open minded, big city dwellers” as they rush and brush by us on the sidewalks. Suddenly, the “narrow minds” of West Michigan seem quite sophisticated.
The food, she’d love. The elevators – she’d be the only one to defy convention by laughing, giggling; by looking strangers right square in the face. No peering into the farthest corner of the lift for that girl. Take the moment and connect with someone, even if it entails laying your head on their shoulder or pinching their hand and squealing in delight. The elevated train – No way. She’d walk right off the platform, that’s if she managed to get through the turnstiles on either end of the ride.
I see all these things and I realize that there’s a reason that Sherry and I live where we do. Live how we do. I can see why all things center on West Michigan and our crazy group of wonderful people who support us. I see why I work where I do and how my life with the Crazy Korean with the enigmatic smile has shaped me into a useful package more than I’ve ever influenced her.
I can clearly see that there’s a place for everything, and everything’s in its place. Its nice once-in-awhile for me as a serving spoon to be placed in the wrong drawer; the one that has the fine linens, cork-screws, wine stoppers and little lobster forks. I’m not there long, largely because I don’t belong in that drawer. For little while though, rubbing shoulders with that class of utensil prooves a delightful change for me. For my little corncob skewer of a Korean, the shift would likely be both unwelcomed and unappreciated. That’s okay though, all those fine class utensils can’t hold a candle to the joy of fresh, hot corn in the summer and will never be appreciated as much in their function as will my little skewer. She has a narrow function but a broad impact. That’s my Bethany.