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At Starbucks with Paul

     We left you in the parking lot by Starbucks a couple of weeks ago with Paul in the wheelchair, ready to greet everyone in sight. That includes the middle-aged woman—slightly overweight, in sweats—walking past us on the sidewalk.

     "You look real pretty," he says, in his friendly manner. She hesitates, then stops and looks around. "You look real pretty today," he repeats. Her plain face lights up. "Me? Oh, thank you! Thank you so much." She continues her walk with a lighter step.

     At the door to Starbucks, a guy walks in before us, letting the door close behind him. No problem. Paul and I got this figured out a long time ago. I open the heavy door and hold it open with my right knee and right hand, my left hand holding the armrest to pull the chair through the door. Halfway in, a kid about eight or nine years old runs out to hold the door for us. "Thank you, thank you so much," I say. He shrugs and smiles a little.

     We're in. "Hi, Paul!" "Hey! Paul!" "How're you doin' Paul?" a few of the baristas look up from their work to greet Paul.

     "Hi, Sarah! Hi, Jake! Is Mark working today?" The microwave beeper goes off.

     "Your beeper's beeping!" Paul calls out.

     "Thank you, Paul. We've got it."

     The only available table is one of those round ones, barely big enough for a computer. It's sandwiched between two other small tables set against the wall. I put Paul's dog-eared book about cerebral palsy on the table to hold it while he orders his grande decaf iced mocha latte and hands over his Starbucks cup with a handle.

     "Anything else, Paul?"

     "A chocolate chip cookie." He asks what the balance is on his Starbucks gold card.

     The people at the adjoining tables make room for Paul as I wheel him up to his table. To the left, a friendly man in casual clothes, complete with baseball cap, smiles and nods; to the right, a lady with bouffant bleached blonde hair smiles and says hello. Across from her, it looks like it might be her mother—but both are older and it's hard to tell. Paul tells the bouffant-ed one he likes her ring and asks if she has any children. The conversation begins. . .  

     The gentleman to the left looks up. Paul asks, "Do you have any pictures of Jaws on your computer?" Turns out, he does.

     When Paul's drink is ready I bring it to him and now it's time for me to leave. Oh, wait! Have to take the lid off so he can spoon the whipped cream off and eat it. When the whipped cream has disappeared, I screw the lid back on. "Call me when you're ready." I'm off. This is his time; his place.

     Two hours later, the friendly guy, the ladies and Paul are still there. Paul already has his iced tea ready for the ride home. I always get it for him when I come to pick him up—except when someone else does. Today it's the friendly guy; he's handing Paul back his gold card.

     "Thanks!" Paul says and tells me the guy showed him lots of pictures of Jaws on his computer. "'Jaws' is one of my favorite movies, too," Paul's new friend says. I thank him for getting Paul's iced tea and showing him the pictures. "No problem," he says, "We had a good time."

     Meanwhile the ladies tell me they had Paul autograph their "Paul's World" book. I confess—they seemed so interested in Paul I gave them a spare copy before I left earlier.

     Another day at Starbucks is over. I shove the door open with the wheelchair and we head out. But. . . Paul's not ready to go home.

     "Let's go cruising!" We take the long way home—the CD blasting, Paul's singing interrupted only by an occasional sip of his Starbucks black iced tea—sweetened, of course.

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