Blind Man Walking

My ears still workAs most of you know, I live in the heart of Manhattan.  I spend a lot of time observing behaviors of thousands of people trying to move within a small space of sidewalk every day.  Literally thousands.  One can imagine the amount of both good and kind behavior as well as bad and unseemly.  Today I need to speak on the bad and unseemly.

Last week I was walking through a very busy intersection.  Intersections in Manhattan often remind me of two sides of a medieval battle where each warring faction lines up on each side of the street, waiting for the white walking human sign to illuminate.  This night was no different.  It was just a bit after six which meant most people were heading out of their offices and to dinner, the train, the gym, home, or anything else one can imagine. The two sides of the streets each had its own mob of humans.  Once the light changed, traffic stopped and our walk sign lit up.  After barreling through the oncoming mob, I got to the other side and noticed a blind man walking with a cane.  I see this more frequently than I ever imagined and each time my heart swells with pride that these strangers are so strong that they can maneuver through this city.  Truly amazing.

I digress.  So I am on the other side of the street and notice a blind man with a cane stepping up onto the sidewalk and he proceeds to walk straight into a young woman carrying what appears to be a piece of art in a cardboard box (narrow, almost flat, perhaps 18 x 24).  His cane has tapped around her so he does not realize she is there.  She can clearly see him but stands there in his way without moving.  He walks into her again and tries to get around her.  She just stands there, like a deer in headlights not knowing what to do. He speaks “Excuse me” and she just stands there.  Frozen.  Unable to move.  Unable to speak.  He walks into her yet again and this time is able to get around her.

Either she has never seen a blind person before or she is simply ignorant.  Many of you will write to me and comment that perhaps she thought standing still was the best way for him to gracefully make his way around her.  I had thought that as well.  The first time.  But after the second and the third, I simply think she was so absorbed in her protecting her piece of art, she forgot to be humane and kind.  I also wondered if there was a language barrier as I do live in a city with many languages.  No words were spoken from her mouth.  It was a very uncomfortable moment to witness and it took all I had not to pull her aside and hopefully teach her about the importance of being kind to those who have less than she.  And by saying this man had less, I am simply speaking to his eye sight.

Some may ask what I would recommend one doing in this situation.  Speech is the best course of action when in the company of a blind person.  Their sense of hearing is much stronger than yours or mine and is your best way to communicate.  Imagine that, communication on a busy street in NYC.  I can only hope.

Be good to one another.


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