Thursday, April 01, 2004

This sort of thing is why I have a blog

So there's this guy I see on the 7 train from time to time. He looks sort of like Colin Powell. If Colin Powell dressed badly in unwashed clothes, wore his backpack under his jacket so he looked like some kind of weird hunchback, and were blind (which I suppose forgives the dressing badly thing). And he sounds sort of like Andy Rooney. I know this because he is often talking to himself. Usually muttering about "these people," but it's never been clear to me what he's really talking about. I say muttering but that's not accurate, because he sounds as though he's a bit hard of hearing as well as blind.

So last night he got on the train as we were sitting there in Times Square, but this time he was actually talking to someone. "I don't need your 'good deed of the day,'" he said to an older, blonde woman, loudly but not unpleasantly, "but I'll take your companionship. That I would take. Your companionship would be lovely."

The woman said something I couldn't hear, and the blind man repeated, "I'll take your companionship, but not your 'good deed.'"

The woman spoke louder, "You looked like you were going to walk into the train." (I assume she meant the side of the train, as opposed to the door.)

This set him off. "Ah, yes, well, of course it looked that way to you, because you have your sight. You have to realize that not all blind people lost their sight. I was born blind, so I don't get disoriented because I've never been able to see." A fair point, I suppose.

"Well I admire you," said the woman. "It must be very hard to get around the streets of New York. It's bad enough when you can see." I realized she had a German accent, and from her disparaging remark about my fair city I figured she must be a tourist. Poor thing, this wasn't going to help her impression of the place at all! But was she not listening?

"I don't need your admiration! You're not listening to me. Being blind doesn't make me helpless. You can't just go walking up to any blind person you see and grab us." Again, a fair point. "But like I said, I'll take your companionship." A less fair point, and was he actually hitting on her as he berated her?

"Well, I'm sorry I offended you."

And he was off again. "I knew you were going to say that. Why do you sighted people always assume you've offended me, just because I'm making an observation? Sure, I'm being critical, but I'm not offended. Your experience without your sight wouldn't be the same as mine is, so you can't just assume..." And the loop of his monologue started over again.

She moved over a couple of seats (he was standing), and he must have heard her because he asked what she was doing. "I'm moving over here," she said, "because I don't want to talk to you anymore. I said I was sorry and I wish you'd be quiet."

"But I don't want you to be sorry," he started, and went back to his script about how blind people weren't helpless and could take care of themselves and he knew exactly how to deal with the world around him.

And the German lady, my new hero, got up and walked away without making a sound.

As the man continued speechifying for a couple of minutes before breaking into a round of "Hello? Ma'am? Hello?" and everyone on the train tried hard to stifle laughter, I finally understood why I usually see him talking to no one.

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