Tim Louis: If you’ve seen one wheelchair, you’ve seen them all…?

Two councillors with radically different ideological dispositions have remained friends for many years

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      Former Vancouver city councillor Sam Sullivan is over 6 feet tall on a short day. I, Tim Louis, also a former Vancouver city councillor, am barely 5 feet tall on a tall day. Sam weighs 180 pounds dry. I am lucky to weigh in at 90 pounds soaking wet.

      He is clean-shaven. I have a beard. He is politically right of Genghis Khan. I am left of Fidel Castro. But we do share one common characteristic—we both move around in wheelchairs.

      I was on city council from 1999 to 2005. During this time, former councillor Sam Sullivan was also on council. One day, after a council meeting, he went downstairs to the cafeteria. The cafeteria staff were all over him—offering this, that, and the other thing. What would you like to order? No need to go through the lineup. Which table would you like? Etc. Etc.

      Councillor Sullivan had never been treated like this before and could not figure it out. As it turned out, I had spoken very positively about the cafeteria staff earlier in the day in council. The cafeteria staff had thought that he was me.

      One day after councillor Sullivan had been elected mayor, my partner Penny and I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. We were still a number of feet from the entrance when a man ran frantically to get to the door before us, graciously opened the door, and said, “We’re so glad you’re here.” This seemed peculiar, but I paid no attention.

      A while later as Penny and I were approaching the elevator, a phalanx of Art Gallery staff rushed to the elevator area, pushed the elevator button, and held the elevator door open for us. We could not figure out why we were getting the royal treatment.

      We later learned that Mayor Sam Sullivan was scheduled at about the same time to do a ribbon-cutting there. The staff thought that I was mayor!

      My partner Penny used to be the on the board of directors of the B.C. Craft Council. In that role, she organized a small fundraiser at the Vancouver Planetarium, inviting then former mayor Sullivan and his partner Lynn.

      After the speeches and nibblies were over, the former mayor and I decided to wander around a bit. As the aisles were too narrow for us to wheel side by side, we were single file with me in front. In the distance, a woman made eye contact with me, suddenly smiled, and walked briskly towards me. When she reached me, she said, “Great to see you Sam.”

      Without missing a beat, in the blink of an eye I introduced her to my friend Tim!

      After I introduced her, she said, “How are you, Tim?” and was about to shake his hand when she froze motionless, turned ashen white, and ran away. My good friend Sam and I howled hilariously.

      Sam and I have an ongoing understanding that if someone comes up to either one of us, greeting us by the other’s name, we immediately call the other on his cellphone and have great fun playing with the individual.

      A few years ago, Sam and Lynn invited Penny and I to their home for dinner. Penny purchased two T-shirts—one says, “I’m not Sam” and the other says, “I’m not Tim!” We both put on our respective T-shirts and Penny took a picture. It is one of my favourite pics.

      On October 13, the Vancouver Sun sent one of my all-time favourite photographers, Arlen Redekop, to my home to take another picture of Sam and I wearing those T-shirts. This picture and an article by John Mackie on our friendship ran on the front page of the October 14 edition of the Sun.

      You’ve seen one wheelchair; you have not seen them all.

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Oct. 19, 2021): 414.23 ppm

      One year ago (Oct. 19, 2020): 411.38 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. Tim started a free monthly online series of progressive film nights and panel discussions, every fourth Friday. Join him for his next event, Friday October 22 at 7 p.m., The Rankin File: Legacy of a RadicalRegister here for the series. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.