Monday, April 5, 2010

Encounters With the Mentally Impaired

On the subway this evening, a tourist family boarded. They were traveling with a mentally impaired woman in her thirties, who was anxious about being on the subway and began to cry and shout. A man stood up so that the woman and her caregiver could sit— they were two seats away from me and it was clear from the way the woman sitting next to me kept cringing and shying away from the screams and garbled words, that she was uncomfortable.

Yet, as I have posted previously, New Yorkers have the ability to stand over and next to a homeless individual whose unwashed body demands attention without truly seeing him. Travelers remain immersed in their books; they nod along to the music on their iPods; they fiddle with their smartphones and portable game devices. They do everything but see. And yet, not a single person would look away as this troubled woman shouted, "Don't be scared" over and over with tears pouring down her cheeks.

They saw her.


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