A Downpour of Broken Sticks
Have you ever had one of these kinds of days?
I’m walking to the subway from 23rd and 6th, heading towards 7th avenue. I’m on my way to AMTRAK up on 32nd at Penn Station. I have an overnight bag and my computer bag with me. It’s pouring rain. I don’t have an umbrella. I’m not late yet but I feel the pressure of the clock ticking. I have about fifteen minutes flex time.
The rain comes down harder.
I duck into Duane Reade and look for an umbrella. There’s a long line of ten people all waiting to buy umbrellas. I pick one off the rack and get in line. There’s only one cashier and he is slow. I wait ten minutes then ditch the umbrella and head back outside.
It’s raining even harder.
I go back in to get the umbrella – wait 10 more minutes on line then rip off it’s sheathe, open it and head into the rain.
The umbrella is small and my back starts to get wet. If I don’t hurry I’ll be running for the train at Penn, maybe miss it. My heart is starting to beat faster.
I’m almost at the 1/9 on 7th Avenue and 23rd. There’s construction and scaffolding over the stairs down that extend to Pong Sri, a Thai restaurant I’ve been to a number of times before. It’s crowded and I try to step to the side as a blind man comes out of the aisle next to the stairs. The rain is drumming. People step away. I have no place else to go. I bump into the scaffolding. The blind man’s walking stick gets between my legs and I snap it in half.
“You broke my walking stick!” the man yells. He’s maybe in his thirties, wearing a black tee-shirt and pants and is getting wet. I’m getting wet too.
“I’m sorry,” I say reaching down to try to put the two pieces together. I thought walking sticks were extendable and collapsible so maybe I could just fix it.
“It’s broken!” he says again and grabs my arm, threading his arm through mine and turning me around. “Now you’re taking me to where I have to go.”
“Sure,” I mumble, looking forlornly at the subway entrance only ten feet away. “Yes, I will.”
“You’re damned right you will,” he adds as punctuation.”
We start to walk faster together, him holding me tight. “Where are you going?” I ask over the sound of the rain. I look at him and don’t look where we’re going. Another blind man is in front of us. Before I realize what’s going to happen they collide shoulder to shoulder, my man pushing into me as he spins around.
“Watch where you’re going!” my guy yells then turns towards me. “You have to watch out for me.”
“Your mother!” the blind man who passed us yells over his shoulder, tapping away with his cane.
“Fuck you!” my guy shouts back still moving forward.
“Fuck you, you asshole,” the other man yells then disappears into the downpour.
“I’m sorry” I say. “That was my fault. I wasn’t looking.”
“Damned right it was your fault. You have to watch out for me as we walk.”
“Right. Now where are we going?”
“135 West 23rd street,” he says.
I look to the left and see the Council for the Blind building and guide him carefully past a few other pedestrians and into the front door.
“Thank you,” he tosses over his shoulder at me.
“I’m sorry again about your stick,” I say as the door closes. I don’t have my umbrella anymore. I don’t know where it went. I turn around to head back towards the subway.
And the rain continues to come down.