Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Knock at the Door

Something happened yesterday. It was one of those small, yet thought-provoking happenings that stumble upon us on rare occasions.

I was working at my desk in my home office. It's next to the front door, so I have a view of the road out of my window. An old man, carrying a well-worn plastic bag, was going door to door. Folks going through the neighbourhood selling stuff is no big surprise. Kids raising money for school events, adults raising money for causes, certain young men in their nice white shirts and ties...I even had a guy trying to sell me fish from the trunk of his car.

Anyway...a few minutes later there wasn't a doorbell ring, but a metallic tapping at the door. I opened the door to find the old man. He had thin white hair and was stoop shouldered, but the most striking, and obvious, thing about him was that he didn't have any hands. His stainless steel pinchers were clamped through the opening at the top of the grocery bag and mentioned that he had some things to sell. In normal circumstances, I would say thanks very much but I'm not interested. But I really felt bad for the guy so I asked to see what he was selling.

He had two books:large paperbacks that are common here by local authors, usually historical stories. He also had one local CD and a knitted child's toy. One of the books caught my eye as it was the history (1950-2000) of a village called Old Perlican. This is along the northern shore of Conception Bay, about 15 minutes past my parent's house. I bought the book from him. He gingerly clamped the $20 bill in his right hook (yes, I paid the Chapters price) and tucked it in his left breast pocket. He thanked me and continued on to the next house.

I sat down and glanced through the book. It was written by a man who has lived most of his life in that small community and was the school principal for a time. The book was really a series of vignettes about events in the village. A photo caught my eye. And there he was again: the man with hooks. There was an 8 page story dedicated to him, relating how he lost his hands.

I won't go into detail with the whole story, but Andrew Pottle lost his hands in 1975 due to an accident when he was electrocuted by a downed power line that was on top of his car. He wasn't supposed to survive the ordeal, or the 2 hour drive to the hospital in St. John's. But he did. He recovered quicker than expected and learned to use the hooks he was fitted with to the best of his ability and even learned to drive again.

Very inspirational stuff. You never can tell who you're going to meet today. I'll think about him next time I'm whining about hurting after basketball...

11 comments:

Laura Eno said...

Nice wake-up call. Those of us who are able-bodied spend so much time complaining. The next time I complain about cramps in my fingers I'll think about the man at your door.

Anton Gully said...

Jeeze, good post, Alan.

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks for sharing this, Alan. Perspective is always welcome.

Cate Gardner said...

Brilliant post, Alan.

Natalie L. Sin said...

That is an amazing thing to come in your front door : )

Alan W. Davidson said...

Thank you all for the kind comments.

katey said...

Yeah that's definitely a brilliant post, and a weirdly hopeful reminder to just remember to be open. Jesus, the things we miss.

Helen Ginger said...

Wonderful post. What a story. Made me want to chase the guy down and talk to him.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Danielle Ferries said...

Great post, Alan, thanks for sharing. And its true, you never know what the day is going to hold.

K.C. Shaw said...

Wow, that really is one of those things that make you sit up and think. (One of the things I'm thinking of is who knitted the toy--because it couldn't possibly have been him.)

Alan W. Davidson said...

Katey-Thanks. I wish I had been more open all those years ago when I travelled for 4 months. I'm sure that I missed so much in those countries...

Helen-I wish I had. I could probably find him again as the village is not far from where my parents live.

Danielle-Thanks. You're right about never knowing what's in store. I think we gloss over that in the 'rat race' of every day life.

KC-I hadn't thought about the toy. The story mentioned that he had three children at the time of the accident (and his wife was pregnant with the fourth). Perhaps a toy from a grandchild? Interesting mystery...story perhaps?