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July 27, 2011

The Blind Man on the Subway

Yesterday I saw a blind man at the subway station walking in the same direction I was headed. He seemed to be in total control using his cane as a guide. He moved briskly. On the down escalator he did not just stand on the steps but walked down them until he reached an elderly lady blocking his path. Since he could not see that he could walk around her, he just stood there waiting to get off.

Once on the train platform, the blind man walked briskly towards the handicaped area hugging the wall. He ran into a man leaning against the wall. This person got out of his way and the blind man continued to the end of the platform where he turned towards where the train would be on arrival but stayed some six feet from the edge of the platform.

Then we waited for the train to arrive.

Since it was not rush hour there were not too many people either on the platform or on the arriving train. I watched the blind man to see how he would board the train. Despite the arrivals having gotten off the train and the path being clear, the blind man did not move. After a long pause, fearing the train would leave without us, I touched the blind man's arm and said to him: "Go ahead." He turned his head to me and whispered: "Thank you." Then he walked very slowly and cautiously towards the train's open doors, all the previous briskness gone. For all he knew, he could be walking towards an empty track, to his death. Once on board, he got help from the other passengers.

This morning I woke up pondering what it would be like to have to trust total strangers in what might be life threatening circumstances.

Denny Schlesinger

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