I was recently in Montreal, enjoying the French, the food, the metro, the art–and my trusty travel cane. This cane folds up neatly, and goes everywhere with me–and it changes how people perceive me. In the metro, the old and young got up to let me sit. I feel more visible with the cane, and that is helpful, as usually my leg problems read as “invisible” unless you notice the limp.
I like an elegant cane, and also a rustic stick–but that, I discovered–needs to be confined to country terrain. It makes me look what I am not, athletic and hardy and hale. Traffic speeds up instead of slowing down.
A few years ago in Morelia, Mexico I went out on cobblestones with my cane early one morning when the streets were still being washed. Suddenly it seemed as if ever other pedestrian had a cane, and was smiling at me.
Several elderly ladies of my acquaintance refuse a cane for the simply reason of vanity. I am not the kind of person who can risk a broken hip for that. I started using the cane in my forties for just that reason–figuring to start when I didn’t look that old. It has worked–I judge it like any accessory.
However, every once and a while I feel self conscious. Once in the parking lot of a scenic park in Arizona I was suddenly hit by self-consciousness. How did I look? The universe responded immediately in the person of a beat up but congenial biker.
“Hey mama,” he called out to me. “You look happy!”
In Montreal’s old city I almost collided with a woman my age with a cane coming around a corner. She smiled and gestured for me to go first, and said in French something like “it is all in the family.”
Remember the riddle of the sphinx? What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three at night. I know the answer. Do you?