By Bernie Bell
Here’s a tale………..
I was travelling to Ireland, alone, and had to wait in Dublin airport, for a flight to Limerick. I was waiting in one of the ‘lounges’, when this unfolded in front of me……
There was a girl, who’s features would indicate that she had ‘special needs’. She probably wasn’t compos mentis enough to live her life as most folks do, but she was lively, and paying attention to what was going on around her. She was, maybe 12/14 years old. She was travelling alone, as an ‘unaccompanied minor’, supposedly under the guardianship of a woman employed by the airline to look after unaccompanied children. This woman, however, was busy flirting with a man who was also something to do with the airline. The girl was left largely to her own devices, being occasionally snapped at by the woman – “No, the door on the left. I said, the door the LEFT” – but seemed content enough. I think she was a bit bored, but, taking in what was around her, making what she could of it all – the new experience.
Then she discovered the video game machine. A boy was playing the machine, which featured a game involving prehistoric monsters, and a hero in a loin cloth – the incongruity of which doesn’t seem to occur to the people who produce the game, or those who play it.
The game finished, and the boy moved away. The girl took over the machine. The money had run out, so a set sequence was repeated on the screen, over and over again. Hero jumps on to rock, monster flails arms at hero, hero jumps off rock etc. But – this didn’t matter to this girl – she was entranced. She took up her position as she’d seen the boy do – one foot flat on the floor, other foot slightly forward, knee bent, and pressed the buttons on either side for all she was worth.
The ‘guardian’ woman paid no attention – as long as the girl didn’t bother her, she didn’t really care what she was doing. The woman was happy, chatting and flirting with someone she probably sees every working day, knowing it would come to nothing, but a pleasant enough way to pass the time. Flattering, too, as she wasn’t young, or pretty. She was ‘well-preserved’, had taken a lot care with her hair and make-up – this kind of interlude just gave her a bit of an ego-boost. And the girl was happy, watching the lights flash and the figures move.
Then a small boy arrived and started to watch, as small boys do. After a few minutes, he realized that it wasn’t a game – just the machine, repeating a sequence. He looked at the girl, looked back at the screen. He couldn’t figure it out. He was too young to recognize her condition, from her features, and didn’t understand what she thought she was doing. He looked totally puzzled. He watched the girl for some time, as she was now of more interest to him than the non-game going on on the screen. And then, with a mental shrug of his shoulders, he moved away.
My flight was called, and I left the girl, still ‘playing’, happily at the game console.
Now, isn’t that something? Her enjoyment was free, un self-conscious, making the most of what she came across. That was all she needed, to occupy her.
And the woman’s enjoyment, was also free – not un self-conscious, but also making the most of what life presented to her. We humans are a mixed bunch, but we all are human – and we adapt.