I transfer trains at Times Square so I see lost tourists everyday. They are the slow ones standing around like I don’t have somewhere to be and they aren’t in my way. I often think of them as blind. Eventually the tourists find their way. They might go in the wrong direction for 40 blocks before someone overhears them mention their excitement to go to Central park when they are already at Union Square & points them in the right direction and they get there. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the system and fall in line. Speed up your gait and even if you’re not sure act like you are sure about where you are going.
But in my daily sprint from train to train. Yes, I do recall vowing to slow down but sometimes you just want to get home. I notice people with some kind of personal impediment. It might be a cane, a stroller, two crutches, the fact that they have 2 small children with them or just their advanced age that slows them down. They stand aside as hordes and hordes of anxious commuters plow their way up and down the stairs to and from their trains. Sometimes they brace themselves on a wall or a pillar and just wait until their path is cleared and they can proceed. They undoubtedly take much longer to get where they are going but they are New Yorkers and they know where they are going. The parents seem to generally throw their youth right into the system and hope they can swim. It’s those of us suddenly faced with a 4 year old that try to dodge out of their way and make a path for them. I’ve seen little old ladies with flesh colored socks scrunched up around their ankles and orthopedic shoes wearing their hair just so, sometimes with a hat even and carrying in one hand their over-sized handbag – no doubt containing anything a person would need to survive in the wild/NYC for days if need be – and in the other hand a shopping bag from Macy’s, a new pair of socks that won’t slide down perhaps? or a gift for someone? Who knows. But she had to navigate the subway system to get there, slowly but surely she did.
I am always in awe at these brave and determined individuals. Then today I saw not one but two blind men board my train. An uptown 1, during rush hour, at the Times Square station. From behind you wouldn’t have known they were blind – thankfully I didn’t cut in front of them. Sometimes getting on and off a train is like trying to swim against the tide with people on either side of you pushing and jostling you around – I have at least once been the odd man out, my body mass couldn’t possibly fit on the train unless I hung from the ceiling somehow. But they not only got on, found seats, or rather seats were made available for them – as I rarely see this happen, I was impressed with my fellow travelers – they folded their white canes and whispered to one another how many stops they should count. You can not always expect to understand the train conductor’s garbled announcements so you if you can’t see the signs out the window you just have to know what stop you’re at. Anyway, eventually one got off at 66th and I don’t know where the other got off but I am sure he found his way too.