Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fiddler on the Subway

Man 1/19/09

There are just times when you see someone on the train, and you try to piece together the reality of that person’s life. As a good friend of mine previously declared, “I’d like to live his life for just one day”.

He had a walker. Well, apparently it’s official name is Rollator – his was made by Drive. This was a midnight blue frame with black handles and wheels. The crossbar in the middle acted as back support, positioned just above the black vinyl seat that was also a cover to a cloth rectangular storage box. The loop-shaped brake handles locked all four wheels when pushed down.

In violation of the Prime Directive, I actually helped the old man by holding the subway door and pulling the walker into the train. He moved painfully slow even with the Rollator. And it couldn’t have been easy for him to get in and out of the stations, given his difficulty with the train.

The old-timer was probably almost 6 feet tall when not hunched over the walker. With white hair and well-developed beard that was more Fiddler on the Roof than Santa Claus. A prominent nose, spot-speckled face and bags under the eyes. His tweed cap kept most of his hair in place, but he had so much that the hair seemed to be sprouting from every which skin cell. Tevye, very Tevye.

The camel hair winter coat was the typical three button single-breasted number. But not much protection given that he only had a faded white shirt underneath. It was snowing that night, and his shirt was wet, maybe from the snow, so the fabric clung to his pink flesh. Given his more than 250 pounds of weight, that coat might have been warmth enough. Brown corduroys and maroon pleather orthopedic shoes completed the look.

There was this lanyard around his neck. It held two keys, a cheap plastic key ring ID tag and curiously a spiral green rubber wristlet meant for keychains. Basically, a keychain attached to a lanyard with two keys. And in his left shirt pocket, you could just make out the outline of a small cellphone.

Sometime into the ride, he asked a young girl sitting diagonally across the train from him if her handheld was a cellphone or a game? He didn’t recognize the Blackberry.

I spent the rest of the ride wondering if he was alone and why he would be out at this time of night on the subway, given his limited mobility. It was sad that he should be here alone.

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