The man i met on the tram..

I had a little cry on the tram trip back to work.

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?

15 Responses to “The man i met on the tram..”

  1. Really great story. Not everyone would have bothered to engage with this fellow – nicely done.

  2. Most people would have missed this opportunity to connect…your clearly a good egg!

  3. Thank you for sharing this story – so very thought-provoking and touching. x

  4. If there was a Like button for this post, I would press it and press it and press it, until it broke.

  5. Beautiful experience – wonderful post. You should chase up the movie Aphasia if you can – it’s fantastic.

  6. A very touching story! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  7. hey vic, a wonderful story. perfectly told & i imagined it in my mind’s eye, knowing EXACTLY how it all came about. you won’t believe this but he & stephan shared a room in rehab together & are fairly inseparable, should see the pair of them together…they kiss & hug like a pair of old lovers & i know it is because their experience is virtually identical. it’s quite incredible. every day heart break & wonder in one. xxx
    ps. but having said that, ‘pd’, as he’s affectionately called is absolutely prolific in terms of his artistic output…when he was an architect, he had little time for his art practice & now he doesn’t stop. he lives his ‘new normal’ with a vigour & passion that’s quite amazing.

  8. Victoria what a sweet story. I am glad you met him and wrote about him and now we ere able to read about him!
    You are very sweet in communicating with him!

  9. The thing is, that firstly so many people are afraid to interact with others on the PT because of the fear of being “trapped”, but you’re only a stop away from being free.(if that’s what you want)
    Secondly, which is so great about your post is, that if we just give others a little time and respect, listen and help, we get beautiful/interesting incites into our fellow humans which surprise us, that’s why the tears! You gave a bit, and got a lot -unexpectedly back. I had no idea that had happened to him…back in the day when that was all being built, I knew a few architects who were involved with it….

  10. That was really moving and lovely (and sad and happy too). Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thank you xx Thank you for sharing that beautiful story and thank you for voicing your support for the National Disability Scheme. I have a 14 year old son who had cerebral palsy and autism and my only wish in the world is that my beautiful boy meets lots of beautiful people like you along his way.

  12. So sweet. You are a good egg. It’s amazing what you encounter when you slow down and allow things to unfold.

  13. That is so beautiful and now I have tears in my eyes too. I love that you took the time and had the patience to listen to him, just today I realised it was time to slow down. What a wonderful experience for you.
    I love your work and I loved reading your words.
    I hope that the Disability Scheme opens many eyes. x

    PS my husband was in charge of building the gallery at Fed Square so I have an emotional connection to the place too.

  14. Beautiful story. It’s amazing what you can learn from people if you just take the time. So glad you shared.

  15. Aw Vic. This is so beautifully written. What an amazing encounter with an amazing man. I don’t think I am going to be able to stop thinking about it…