Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blind Man Walking

Yesterday I got off the Metro (sort of between a train and a tram) and I was walking toward school when I saw a blind man walking down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he walked right into a glass wall - sort of suddenly swerving into it because it must have seemed clearer than the exits, and certainly too quick for me to jump in and stop him. He seemed like he had some ability to see something, like shadows and light. He recovered quickly and left the station.

I lagged behind the rest of the crowd walking toward the school. I wanted to see how he got along, how he made his way to where he was going. He headed toward the school and then stopped, taking something out of his pocket and holding it his face "looking" at it. Maybe it was some kind of GPS device. He stopped and fiddled with it and I stopped and watched him, curious about how he would proceed. At the end of it, I realized that he was having some difficulty with his gadget and I kept walking to the school.

So I didn't stop and offer to help him. Am I mean? I don't think so. I never know what the correct thing to do is in that situation. I've seen people offer to help blind people and I've heard blind people say that it's annoying to constantly be offered help. If he were in a wheelchair having technical difficulties, I would have offered assistance. Had he been old and carrying something heavy, I would have helped. But there was something about him just standing there that made me think, If he got this far, he probably doesn't need my help.

I used to occasionally see blind people in Manhattan walking around and I thought that they were incredibly brave. How can you just walk through a huge city without seeing things? Well, I can't imagine it's the worst place to try to get around. It's on a grid. But this guy at the school yesterday was just walking out into the wild blue yonder. There was no one else around - except some guy who was just watching him. How does he stay out of the canal? How does he tell when he's gotten to the school and not the residence next door? It's all a mystery to me. Later, I saw him in the lobby being led around by a woman who works at the school.

So strange. I can't imagine being blind. What an incredible inconvenience. Of course I would probably get over it and figure out what to do next, sort of like what if my legs were blown off or what if I couldn't use my hand any more. You just figure things out. We're resilient.

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