We pulled over last night in an empty gravel lot next to
a small local gas station. We were right off the highway. It wasn’t the nicest
of places to camp, but it was free, and the view over the nearby fields was
significantly better than the view department store parking lots have to
offer—not that there were any department store parking lots in the hamlet of
There’s something that I find quite amusing about
Youngstown. The signs proclaim it to be the “Sportsmen’s Paradise”. This is
hilarious for two reasons. One: I can’t see a lake on Google Maps anywhere near
the town. Nonetheless the town sign has a picture of a fish struggling as it is
being hauled in. Two: there are “no poaching” signs every 10km before and after
the town. I saw deer, elk, moose, foxes, goats—some sort of wild life—everyday
in the mountains. I have not seen any deer, or any signs for cars to watch for
deer. I have seen signs to watch for cattle. Perhaps they hunt prairie
dogs…maybe gophers. I suppose there are lots of ducks around with all the
flooded fields. I have never lived there, and probably never will, so I
shouldn’t be so critical.
I woke up to the sound of rain pounding on the roof of
our RV. I heard trucks whooshing by on the nearby highway. I could even hear
the wind. “Oh boy,” I thought to myself. It was one of those days where you’d
want to stay in bed, curled up in the covers. Part of me also really wanted to
get going and just get over—or perhaps there was part of me that knew I’d be
fighting a headwind and was doubtful that I’d finish my day if I didn’t get
going. I geared up; rain pants, shoe covers, rain jacket, goggles, hat under
the helmet, water proof winter gloves.
Most of the day was gusty headwinds and rain. I did a lot
of visualizing of more pleasant moments. I tried not to think about the
present, but about the future, or random stuff like possible inventions. The
loneliness of long-distance cycling, running, paddling, swimming, anything,
requires more mental conditioning and perseverance than physical. Struggling to
maintain an average speed around 22km/hr, I finally came over a hill, and saw
my final destination, Kindersley, from about 40km away. At this point, it was
about 7:45pm, despite getting on the road early. The rain had stopped. The sky
was relaxed and hazy in the dusk. The wind had settled down to a gentle breeze.
I picked my average speed up to about 30km/hr, and pedaled fiercely to get to
Kindersley before dark. I made it by 8:30pm.
I was drained of all my energy. I ate a meal, went to
sleep, and deprived my readers of a blog post.
It’s amazing how one day can have a domino effect on the
entire schedule. As a result of going to see the dinosaur museum in Drumheller
(which astounded me), I arrived in Youngstown very late, and needed to sleep
later the next day. I woke up and started cycling much sooner than my body
wanted to. I finished late again in Kindersley, but I would have to wake up at
a reasonable time the next day for media interviews.
Sometimes the greatest feelings of accomplishment are sparked
from triumph over struggle, frustration, and hopelessness. When I cycle, it is
up to me whether or not I accomplish my set goal—whether I keep pedaling, or I
quit. I can’t imagine not having that control. There are people in our country
who fight mental battles of loneliness daily and know the deepest meaning of
frustration because they don’t have a way to communicate. Often, many of these
people don’t have control over this; no matter how consistently they
demonstrate their abilities, no matter how much strain they sacrifice, whether
or not they get what they need to communicate is reliant on the people around
them and the policies of their government.
If you meet someone who doesn’t have an obvious form
communication, often the first thing to do is to find out how they signal yes
and no. It may be obvious, such as a nod. It may be very subtle. It will depend
on what muscles in their body they can control with the most consistency and
ease. “Show me your yes…maybe several time so I’m sure to see it,” is often
what I say to people when I’m not familiar with their method of communication
or and/or if they don’t have a communication device. I watch their whole body.
Some people may even tap their foot (because that’s what they can control
best), look to the right or left, blink, or swing their arm. If you think you
figured out their yes, confirm it with them: “do you lift your leg to say
‘yes’?”. If they lift their leg to that, you’ve figured it out. Once you’ve
established a yes, you can ask yes/no questions. Once you can ask yes/no
questions you can be amazed.
Often, people have a communication device, or a
letter/picture board. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how it works. Most
people who speak with AAC won’t consider it rude; they’d be delighted to show
you how it works.
You can be an enabler. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Giving someone the control of being able to communicate is something that
should be expected in our society, but it is also a kind gesture which requires
thoughtfulness, and ultimately allows people to be control.