After a 16-hour transportation pentathlon (car, train, walking in circles trying to locate the subway station, subway and plane), I'm finally back in Vancouver and right back to my old habits. Laying in bed: check. Watching the episodes of "House" I missed online: check. Chai latte: well, it was a half-sweet, nonfat caramel brulee latte because since I've been away from Vancouver for three weeks my yuppie street cred meter was in the red and I needed an extra dose of Starbucks-order ridiculousness, but still. It's good to know, however, that even though I'm now thousands of miles away, my legacy is shining brightly in Champaign-Urbana.
Case in point: two nights ago. A. and I wanted to see "The Road," but unfortunately it hasn't found its way to the thriving cultural metropolis of Champaign-Urbana yet; (you can, however, see "Twilight" pretty much any hour of the day). The only solution was to rent a video. When we were paying for the video, the cashier was looking at me oddly. I figured she must have just been dazzled by my Amazon-esque good looks or else was investing some major energy into figuring out why I was wearing two gloves on one hand and only one on the other (answer: my cane-holding hand gets cold because I can't put it in my pocket).
Just as we were about to leave, the cashier said, "I know this will sound weird, but did you ever talk at a human sexuality course?" Well, yes, that was me. Because of my herculean tolerance for embarrassment (it's kind of a super power), I was briefly the go-to person to talk about my sex life (don't laugh) in front of 250 undergraduates for the "Disability and Sexuality" panel every semester at one teacher's human sexuality class. I would talk about sex as a pain-control mechanism--I have actually had doctors tell me that I should have more sex for this reason, which was definitely on the top-10 list of "world's most awkward conversations" and a sign I should get out more (when your 50-year-old surgeon is urging you to have more booty calls, you just might be on a fast train to spinster-ville)--and various other people would talk about getting it on when you're a paraplegic etc. etc. In theory, this was supposed to enlighten the masses and prevent drunken college girls from having to boozily ask guys in wheelchairs at the bar if they can...like...you know....like...do it.
Now, see, the problem about me speaking at a human sexuality panel is that I tend to make jokes when I'm uncomfortable and it's not exactly easy to feel zen-like when you are staring out at a sea of 250 undergraduate faces hoping that none of these kids are also in your Rhetoric class while you try to explain that even though you'll never do the "reverse cowgirl passion pretzel," having a disability forces you to be familiar with your body in a way that able-bodied people rarely are and....You can see where this is going. Let's just say that I've walked out of several of these human-sexuality talks wondering, "Did I really just tell 250 people that I should incorporate myself as non-profit agency so that I can tell guys at the bar that having a one-night stand with me is tax-exempt under the charitable giving act because of what it does to my pain levels?"
I told the cashier that, yes, that had been me.
"Oh my God!" she said. "You were, like, the best thing about that class! People talked about you for weeks." (I'm sure they did).
"Thanks," I said. "I always walk out of those things suspecting that I've led people to believe that I'm a bit promiscuous."
"Yeah, totally!" she exclaimed. "You sounded like a total slut! It was so hilarious!"
I looked at A., who was biting his lower lip to keep from laughing and studying me in a way that said "why am I not at all surprised one single bit that this is happening?"
"Well, I'm glad you liked it," I said.
This exchange actually went on for a few more minutes, but I've forgotten most of what was said because I was too busy mulling over the fact that probably more people remember me for saying that I don't consider myself "wheelchair accessible" because most of the disabled guys I know are man-whores than they do for even my most soul-stirring speech on the importance of effective paragraph transitions.
Finally, as we were heading out the door, the cashier looked between A. and I and grinned knowingly. "You two have a good night," she said. I'm not sure, but I think she winked.
And you know what? I did have a good night. A good night of watching "Star Trek" with my cat stretched out on my lap. You know, like every good sexpert.