We’re in a food court in Frankston. A blind man uses his white cane to sword fight through the crowd of chairs and slows to get directions at the counter of a Chinese take away outlet. He reaches out to the gesticulating food server, the blind man placing his left hand over the top of the other man’s pointer finger: he pauses, feels for the tip, nods his thanks, then cuts a path back through the chair legs to a table on the periphery.
Minutes later a brunette in her 40s approaches and sits down across from him. Immediately they dive into a lively conversation conducted entirely in tactile sign language. Their hands move in a flurry, constantly in contact, diving around each other like sparrows swooping and spiralling in the sky. They mime riotous laughter, mouths open, their faces creased with smile lines.
The conversation reaches a crescendo and they are both signing at the same time. Is this the equivalent of talking over the top of each other? When their hands rejoin, the back and forth pattern begins again, a ballet of fingers and palms and fists and gestures.
I wonder how often this man in his Burberry hat and black trench coat has an opportunity to engage in conversation, to hold another’s hand and truly hear what they have to say, and also to be heard. It adds a new depth to the idea of digital connection.