Tidewater Traveler - May 2007

Meet Christopher


George Sellers

     Along with other reasonable people, I stand back a couple of yards from the luggage carousel at the airport with the thought that being too close to the belt blocks the view and access of other people. I think to myself – “if everyone stands back, then everyone will be able to clearly see the approaching luggage, and then have plenty of room to step forward to the belt and retrieve their belongings without needing to push through a crowd to do so.” Thoughtless, self-centered (unreasonable) folks push past us to set up camp right on the bank of the stream of suitcases, and in doing so block the view of us reasonable people. Grumble, grumble . . .
      Reasonable people (like me!) don’t recline their airplane seatback into the face of the person behind them. This guy in front of me, for example - even after I yelped (a little) in pain from having his seat frame being pushed back into my kneecap, and even after I politely said, “Sir, the seat is jamming against my knee,” he retreated for about two minutes and then put it back anyway for the rest of the flight. I don’t think reasonable people do that. Grumble, grumble. . . .After sitting with my feet in the aisle for a while, I stood up to stretch and discovered that “Sir” was really a woman – oops!
      How can anyone in the post-nine-eleven world of travel even think that it is okay to park an unattended car in the pick-up/drop-off zone at an airport while they go inside to meet someone or to see someone off? When a reasonable person (like me, of course!) sees something like that – I don’t know – it just bugs me. Grumble, grumble . . .
      It is easy to allow yourself to be ‘bugged’ by a variety of travel circumstances and situations. After all, traveling presents whole new sets of challenges in settings different from the daily routine.
      During a recent trip to Disney World, the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my daughter-in-law, Julie and I were commenting to each other about how many children we were seeing in the theme parks that were crying or throwing little tantrums. Apparently some were crying because they could not do something they wanted to do; and some were whining because they were doing something they did not want to do.
      With the documentation for every trip we present our clients with a sheet called The Large Print. The Large Print presents standard disclaimers, as well as travel tips and suggestions for travelers when they encounter problems. The wording concludes with “. . . but don’t let it ruin your vacation attitude!” And yet, there are times when I allow the unreasonable people of the world to interfere with my vacation attitude.
      And that is why I will always remember Christopher!
      It is about 9:00am. I am seated with my family in the Cape May Café located just off the hotel lobby at the nineteen-thirties-themed Disney’s Beach Club Resort. We have been grazing back and forth to the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I am sipping my second cup of coffee, looking around the room and awaiting the arrival at our table of Minnie Mouse or Goofy for the ritual hugs, autographs and family photo-ops.
      At a table across from ours I notice a young fellow being fed by a lady who has her back to me. A man is also seated at the table. I suppose these folks to be a mom, dad and son. Like any mother feeding her son, she presents him a spoonful and then wipes the excess from his lips and chin. Dad also participates with an occasional napkin blotting. The young man’s head begins to bob a little and his face brightens. Standing beside him with her hand on his shoulder is Minnie Mouse herself. Minnie pats his head and bends down to give him a hug. His arms and head flail uncontrollably as his excitement builds. Following a gesture from dad, mom stands and joins Minnie and the young fellow. While dad fiddles with a camera to capture the special moment, mom removes the bib and does some minor primping.
      I am captivated by the scene, and create an excuse to get up and head toward the buffet (again). On the way I stop and offer take a picture of the whole family, allowing dad to join mom and son with Minnie. They seem appreciative. Everyone smiles. I take two just to improve the chances of having a good one. I proceed on to the buffet, and then back to the table, but I cannot direct my eyes away from the family of three.
      Have you ever had one of those situations where you really felt an extreme urge to do something – but not sure what or why?
      Totally oblivious to my own family and the conversation at our table, it is like a powerful magnetic force is compelling me to make a move. It is something I know I must do, and yet a voice within me says, “Don’t embarrass yourself.” Without excuse to those present, I stand and walk to the other table. “May I join you for a moment?” I say. The dad looks a little tentative but gestures toward the vacant chair. I’m not sure what I am trying to say to them but as I start to speak my words are choked with emotion and I stop. Reflecting my own, I see a tear in the dad’s eye.
      I compose myself a bit, introduce myself, and then begin to explain that I have been watching their family throughout the breakfast time, and am so truly stirred and impressed by what I am seeing. As we talk I learn that Christopher is their thirty-three year old son, and because of Cerebral Palsy he does not walk, speak or feed himself. Christopher experiences the world from a reclined position in his narrow, well-padded, wheel chair. His eyes are bright with wonder as he observes his surroundings. He doesn’t speak, but he reacts.
      I ask if this is Christopher’s first visit to Disney World. No, he has been here many times - we bring him about once a year. Where do you stay? This time we are staying next door at The Yacht Club, but we have stayed at a number of the Disney resorts. What does Christopher respond to? What are his favorite things to do? He likes the bright lights and all the activity and excitement around him. He enjoys meeting the characters and he really loves it the female characters like Minnie are around him.
      After we spoke for a few more minutes, dad and I exchanged business cards, and when I looked at the card I was surprised to see that the family is from Sherwood Forest, Maryland – near Annapolis. I just do not know how to adequately express my gratitude and respect for parents like these for the personal sacrifice they make to bring happiness to Christopher, and to others who see the world as Christopher does.
      Vacation attitude? I wish I had the ability to effectively share with you the image in my head of Christopher’s bright and happy face on that special February morning at the Cape May Café.
      May all of your travels be happy and safe!