A few days ago I saw a new person on the daily commute getting off at the same stop as I do. Usually it’s pretty easy to tell who is new because it’s typically the same 12-15 people who commute to work everyday and get off at my stop. These are the same 12-15 people I met during my “One Conversation per Day on Public Transit” month in September. This man in particular was especially noticeable because he was blind and had an absolutely gorgeous German Shepard puppy (1-2 years old) as a seeing-eye-dog.
He got off the train and it was snowing, I noticed he was just standing there on the platform. I was going to go over to him and ask if he needed help but one of the other commuters beat me to it. I overheard him say he was fine and that he was just waiting for a coworker to come pick him up. I found out that he works for the city’s Police Department. I’m not sure what exactly he does but I’m sure I’ll find out.
Today I saw him again but not until we got back into the city. We were about to get off at the same stop. I let him go ahead of me and he gingerly walked down the stairs to get off the train and came uncomfortably close to stepping between the train and the platform. A few of us, including the conductor, noticed that he was going to step short so we kind of yelled to step farther and he readjusted and made the landing. His dog is also very young so he’s a bit jittery and wanted to sniff out the pigeons that hang out in the station so the dog definitely didn’t help him stabilize on the stairs. I’m glad he made it down in one piece though.
When I got off the train I asked him if he needed help in getting where he was going. He said, “Sure thing, just going to get on another commuter rail.” I remember thinking to myself, “Holy crap, this guy takes two commuter rails to get to work, AND he’s blind?!” What an amazing guy, it’s hard enough to navigate the MBTA as a sighted person, let alone make a commuter rail transfer (never obvious because the tracks can change from day to day). So he grabbed my elbow and we walked through the station up and down large sets of stairs and I brought him to his train platform. I cannot imagine having to do this blind every single day. Hopefully his dog settles down and gets used to the routine. However, even if his dog gets used to it, the tracks can often change so it’ll be hard for him to know which track the train will arrive on and then how to get to that platform.
We talked about our jobs, his dog, and various other things as we walked. I was really impressed by this guy. I was just blown away by his positive attitude, fearlessness, and confidence. He was happy as a clam to be working for the Police Department even if it meant navigating Boston Public Transit with a rowdy puppy as a seeing-eye-dog. Normally I would have let him do his thing and not offered to help, figuring that if he’s blind in the city then he can obviously fend for himself. This might be true, I’m sure he can take care of himself, however, I’m also sure that he was glad when someone offered him a hand so he didn’t have to navigate himself. If I were blind I would take great pride in being able to successfully navigate the MBTA but I would definitely say yes if someone randomly offered to help make it easier.