On my way to the city a tourist had asked a man for directions, the man shook his head so I helped the traveller get his bearings and mentioned Federation Square. The man made a gesture to me – his coordination was hard to read but he looked good-hearted and pointed at his face and said (with a little difficulty) “I made it”.
I nodded and smiled, said positive things (as you do on the tram), then he repeated it and seemed like he wanted to chat so I asked if he was an architect (may as well start from the top, huh?)
His eyes widened and he loudly said “YES!”
I told him it was a beautiful building and he must be very proud. He looked a bit emotional and said “yes”.
I asked what his name was and we got off the tram together so he could tell me without rushing.
At first the small talk was a little tricky – we were standing at the tram stop, he wanted to talk but his brain wasn’t cooperating, he was understandably frustrated. He then made a gesture, which I didn’t get, and then he touched the back of my head so that I could see that he was trying to write letters in the air. He Wrote L.A.B. I said it out loud, he smiled and said “yes”.
I’ve heard of LAB before, but i wasn’t quick enough to recognize it as the architectural firm that designed Federation Square all those years ago. I asked his name again and his eyes widened, then he looked down and said “I know, but I don’t know”
I asked him if he could write it instead – it was clear that he had no problem thinking what to say but the bit where it transferred into speech was damaged.
With a lot of effort, he wrote his name on the paper with his left hand.
I recently heard someone say that an able-bodied person is only a car crash away from knowing how a disabled person lives. It seems especially relevant considering the current discussions about how the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be funded – a topic that has sparked some pretty ugly debate by people who don’t think that disability insurance is relevant to them. All tax payers fund things that do not seem to immediately affect them, that’s how it goes, that’s how a functioning society works, we help each other out. (did you read Stella Young’s piece?)
So the little cry I had on the tram was for how transient it all is, how you can go from dizzying professional heights to a completely different life in just a few years. Peter & I had a good chat, turns out he’s an artist now and having an exhibition of drawings at DaineSinger’s Gallery very soon – but how’s that? What are the chances of meeting the designer of Federation Square on the 112 tram?