I had just picked up a pizza and was heading home at about 8:15 tonight. It was snowing a little and some of the streets were pretty slippery because we had some thawing temperatures over the past few days followed by a quick freeze today. There were waist-high piles of frozen snow lining the road.
I was driving down a pretty busy street when I saw somebody standing in the intersection ahead waving their arms. It looked like he or she was wearing a large parka and facing away from me. As I got closer, I saw that the person was facing me, but the hood of the jacket was buttoned completely up over their face. Then I realized that the person didn’t need to see anything, because I could also now see the cane waving in the air.
I stopped in the middle of the intersection and asked if I could help. A man’s voice said, “Yes, could you please tell me where I am and help me find the sidewalk?” I asked him if he wanted to hop in and I’d drive him to where he was going. He told me the address, which was about a block and a half away, around the corner. As I drove him there he told me he had ridden the bus to a friend’s house, but the driver had just dropped him in the middle of the intersection. “How the fuck does a bus driver drop a blind man in the middle of the street?” he said. “When I asked him to tell me how to get to the sidewalk, he just closed the door and drove away.”
I didn’t know what to say. I told him I was sorry that had happened to him. I asked him if that kind of thing happens very often. He said, “Yeah, unfortunately, from time to time.” Maybe it was just a day in the life for him. But a moment of panic raced through me as I pictured myself in the middle of Penn Avenue and 51st Street, not being able to see where I was going.
I walked him up to the door of his friend’s house. The street and sidewalk were slick and uneven from the re-freeze. It was dangerous to walk even with the two of us hanging onto each other.
He thanked me. I didn’t ask his name and he didn’t ask mine. I never did see his face.
For a brief moment I caught myself having a silly thought. For some reason, I thought, “I wish I could make him see.”
Then I realized how ridiculous that was.
On New Year’s Eve of all nights, a man standing in the middle of a slippery street wearing a black parka…
I hope everyone drives carefully tonight, and doesn’t get behind the wheel at all if they’ve had a few. I’ve had my share of nights when I didn’t drive responsibly. I’m thankful tonight wasn’t one of them.
As for the bus driver — “How the fuck do you let a blind man off in the middle of the street” and not even help him find the sidewalk on a night like this, indeed.
Happy New Year. Be safe.