T-Bone and I go out for a date in the city on a chilly winter's evening. Dinner is at Grossi's Cellar Bar where we have a couple of delicious pastas – bolognese for the young man and wild mushroom pappardelle for myself, plus the requisite bowl of chips (to support Aussie potato farmers, of course).
Following dinner, on the way to a gelato joint, T-Bone spots a homeless woman sitting on Bourke Street. I try and shepherd him away – not out of any disrespect for her or the needy – but because I can sense what is coming next: questions, lots of questions. And awkwardness, lots of awkwardness. Because in T-Bone's world, there's no difference between her or a busker or one of his therapists. They are all a grown up source of information and curiousity.
I grab his hand and lead him away, but he spots her and is sucked into her gravitational pull.
"What are you doing there?"
"Aren't you cold?"
"What's this hat for?"
"Why is there money in there?"
Like I said, awkies. Who's meant to answer, me or her? And how does one answer this particularly pointed question:
"Why don't you just get a home?"
She's a good sport, but shit dude, way to throw your old man under a bus. Do I tell her he's autistic, or do I just fish out the loose change in my left pocket and hope that squares things up? Are coins acceptable after this interaction, or is this note-worthy?
I get him to hand over three bucks and finally prise him away. I guess it's not as bad as the time he asked a wheelchair-bound person, "why don't you just walk?", or indeed the time he went up to a dwarf, pointed and yelled, "Small! Small! Small!"
Thankfully it was my wife who managed the dwarf encounter. If it were me I would have just looked around and said, "Does anyone know whose kid this is?"
I said to my wife later, "you know what, she probably liked that T-Bone wanted to know why she was so small. I read about this on facebook all the time – disabled people and their carers like when kids go up to them and ask questions."
"Nah, she looked pretty pissed off."
Having been waylaid some, T-Bone and I finally make it to the gelato joint on Spring Street. The facade of Parliament House is a fine backdrop and he inquires as to the purpose and function of the grand building.
For someone who has a politics degree and worked in and around the public service for many years, the answer to the question, "what's Parliament?" should come pretty naturally to me, but it doesn't.
"Umm, that's where politicians work."
"What are politicians?"
"Ahh, they're people who do politics".
"It's about elections and stuff. Did you want a cup or a cone? What flavour? I think I might get hazelnut in a cup. What about you? Ooh, it's a pretty cold night to be having ice cream isn't it?"
Answering a question with a question (or lots of questions). Smart move, dad.
Then it dawns on me that this son of mine might make a visionary politician one day.
As Robert F. Kennedy said, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"
"Why don't you just get a home?"
"Why don't your parents just buy you a house?"
"Why doesn't the climate just stop changing?"
"Why don't people just stop killing each other?"
Why not, my little man, why not?