I arrived at the Scout building yesterday evening into the middle of the emergency services scraping up yet another couple of teens who had managed to crash their motorbike at some speed (judging by the damage to both vehicles) into a car. Stats from our local hospital last year suggest that they expect to treat between five and ten injury accidents involving motorcyclists every single day, and that fatalities run at one every three to four weeks. That’s a lot for a town of 80,000 inhabitants. Fortunately yesterday’s pair lived to tell the tale, despite wearing their helmets draped fashionably from their elbows rather than usefully on their heads. According to an article in the paper here the other week, San Franciscans earn twice the national average wage, and own twice the national average number of vehicles. Sadly money can’t buy twice the common sense, or double the immunity from dying in a road accident… in fact if anything money probably increases the levels of stupidity (naivety), by creating a cushioning sense of protection and immortality. And so everyone wrings their hands, and the kids continue to kill themselves. Having ascertained that yesterday’s teens weren’t any of our Scouts, and that there wasn’t anything I could usefully do there, I carried on in to open up the Scout building with a renewed sense of heaviness, where I found myself humming “Who can sound the depths of sorrow…. upon this nation, upon this nation, (upon their arrogance, upon their determination to self-destruct) have mercy Lord (because without your mercy nothing changes and my God these people surely need it)”.
Today brought a new opportunity to connect with one of our neighbours. Living facing into a plaza, we are on at least conversational terms with almost all of the occupants of the other houses which also face the plaza, as well as with many of the folk living in the surrounding streets (particularly since mine is the infamous blonde kid making mud pies in the plaza). This one family had caught my attention in an “idle curiosity” sort of way since I identified their little boy as having Asperger’s Syndrome from a couple of hundred metres away, but so far I’ve never managed to generate an appropriately sensitive context in which to ask whether their child has ever been given a label. This morning however, mum and child showed up at the disabilities summer scheme so I was able to take advantage of the context to introduce myself properly, explain my interest, and confess my long-distance labelling of their kid. Turns out I was correct, and when we were all leaving at the end of the morning Mum asked if we could get together sometime and talk some more about Asperger’s.
I’ll be looking forward to that, some time after Scout camp which will be occupying the coming week. This week our non-working hours have been filled with gathering camping gear and all the other sundry items that one needs for Scout camp… bits of string, balloons, bottle tops…. I had one of those “good idea at the time” brain storms and planned an activity involving the construction of balloon powered cars, so I’ve been filling the house with rubbish, and building prototypes on the office floor powered by balloons, elastic bands and useful tips on applied physics from my technically minded husband. I think it works; whether the kids manage to replicate it, better it, or trash it completely, I’ll let you know when we’re back.