This all took place several years ago, back when I was living in an apartment complex near an extremely straightforward traffic roundabout that still managed to baffle the legendarily awful drivers of Florida.
I had just finished a 5 mile evening run. A few dry spots could be found in the bottom corners of my shirt, the rest completely drenched in sweat. Just a short walk separated me from a much needed shower as I approached the traffic roundabout.
There she was, sunglasses that would be unnecessary for most people given the sunset in progress; a stick with the end marked red that would keep her from tripping over curbs and steps but could not save her from the calamity of Orlando’s perpetually puzzled drivers faced with a slightly unfamiliar obstacle.
I sprung into action.
“Excuse me ma’am,” I said, mostly to let her know that I was now standing next to her. “Can I help you cross this road?” She obliged and I apologized for my stench and the layer of sweat on my arm as she took it.
As I escorted her to the other side of the road, I asked where she was trying to go. The Blind Woman explained that she was trying to reach the Wendy’s about a quarter mile from where we stood. I agreed to join her for the entirety of the odyssey.
Ahead of us, a truck from the cable company was parked on the curb and its driver was tinkering in a large electrical box nearby. Jutting out like oversized ears, the truck had those wide sideview mirrors that help alleviate some of the blind spots that plague larger vehicles.
With a little prompting, the Blind Woman explained that she lived in a nearby apartment complex. She told me that she wasn’t always blind, that her vision had degenerated over several years. Before she moved in with her daughter, she could get around just fine by memory.
The truck was just a few feet in front of us as we shuffled along, arm in arm.
I felt bad for her. Not only was the Blind Woman new to this area, but she couldn’t even see any of the surroundings to gain her bearings. I cringed to think of what might have happened to her had she taken on that traffic roundabout all by herself.
She wasn’t even trying to get something to eat at the Wendy’s. She just wanted to have a general idea of how far apart everything was. I launched into an explanation of other landmarks and hazardous intersections, told her about the gas station and the Chik Fil A, the office buildings and hotels on the other side of the wide street.
Then, I led the Blind Woman face first into the outstretched sideview mirror of the cable truck.
I was looking at her as we conversed, insisting upon undoubtedly the most unnecessary eye contact in the long history of human discourse. She staggered backward upon impact, more startled than hurt. I babbled a thousand apologies frantically, but she wasn’t injured or upset.
The presence of the cable company employee only amplified the throbbing wound to my pride.
I believe that when people have the ability to help each other, they have a responsibility to act. In my mind, imagining what harm might have befallen this Blind Woman had she stepped foot into that intersection made me responsible for her fate (the same way I felt responsible for the fate of the drunk jogger who insisted upon running 10 miles to his house rather than letting me call a cab for him).
This line of thinking could save the world, but I’m self-conscious about telling stories like this. I don’t want to come across as patting myself on the back for my good deed, even though I am proud of it. Or at least I was until I botched it so badly!
The rest of the journey to and from Wendy’s was uneventful, thank goodness. Upon dropping her off back at her apartment complex, I implored her to be careful around the traffic roundabout.
Hopefully she found no shortage of people willing to help her cross the street.