October 17, 2006

on altruism and inadvertent anti-piracy measures

Picture it: The corner of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street on a Friday evening. I had just surfaced from a short hop on the F train from Rockefeller Center and was waiting to cross the avenue teeming with rush hour traffic.

Over my shoulder, a soft voice asked a question: "Miss, when the light changes, can you help me get across?"

I turned around to see a blind elderly man facing in my direction with an expectant expression on his face.

I responded with a cheerful, "Certainly!"

"Thank you, miss. Would you mind if I held on to your arm?"

"No, not at all," I assured him as I offered my bent left appendage.

"Oh, thank you so much, miss."

"No problem. Ready? Here we go."

As we crossed the busy boulevard, people parted like the Red Sea and made way for the blind man with his cane bobbing from side to side and little ol' me cautiously leading him across.

Some people nodded at us. Others just did their best to not be that person, the one who bumps into the blind man.

I smiled as I once again found myself once again embroiled in a quintessential New York moment. Living in a walking city exposes you to insanity, offensive smells, piles of garbage and other unsightly things, not to mention the occasional bout of foot suckage, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect, however briefly, with someone outside your usual social set. For some, that's a turn-off. For me, I throw my arms around the opportunity and hug it to death. Um, except where my feet and unwanted advances toward them are concerned.

Despite my seemingly selfless act, there was a certain cockiness to my stride. I knew people were observing this display of man helping fellow man and just eating that shit up. And I won't lie to you... I really thought I was hot shit. I joined the ranks of those admiring my good deed and strutted across Sixth Avenue with a shocking amount of hubris. I rocked my halo with equal parts pride and "Gawd, I'm sweet!" arrogance.

However, my moments of grandeur and self-importance never last long. Not by choice, mind you. Instant karma does indeed get me. Right quick, in fact.

No sooner had I said, "Okay, we're coming up to the curb. Watch your step!" than the man barreled right into a display of bootlegged DVDs inconveniently situated on the busy corner of 23rd and Sixth. He then proceeded to stumble and stagger sending copies of Little Miss Sunshine and Open Season skidding across the pavement. He plowed through that pile of pirated movies like he was Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple.

I tried to regain control but he continued to stomp and smash everything in his path while saying, "Sorry! My fault! Pardon me! Oops! Sorry!" I was horrified by the bedlam that I helped cause. I echoed his rushed, sheepish apologies and then finally got a good grip on his arm and steered him away from the carnage. I offered him an embarrassed, "Sorry about that!" and then pointed him in his desired direction before hauling ass down 23rd Street. Awwwwwwwwwkward!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make a generous donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind as a means of doing penance for my "good deed"...