He was standing, looking perplexed. As I rolled by, he called out to me. I was in my powerchair, so I slowed, turned to face him, and stopped. Joe had been caught short and it took his legs longer to register the change of direction and destination than it did the tires on my chair. I waited to hear what the fellow had to say. He was in his early thirties, he wore black pants, a black fall jacket and white ear phones. He pulled the buds out of his ears and said, "I'm a bit lost. I need some help."
I had recognized, right off, that he had Down Syndrome, and I wondered then how long he had been waiting to ask for help. I simply said, "OK, where are you going?" As it turned out he as on the wrong side, heading the wrong way. It was an easy fix. He thanked us. I asked him, "How did you choose me to call?"
You see, these situations interest me, I want to learn what strategies that people use in situations like this so that I can teach them or incorporate them into my writing. Nothing beats success, and while I learn a lot from my own mistakes, I also learn a lot from the successes of others. He said, "My mother taught me that if I got lost, to wait, even if it's for a long time, for someone who I think would be safe to ask." I will admit to a feeling of instant pride to have been put into that category. I asked him further, "What about me made me safe." He said, "You are in a wheelchair, you know what it's like to need help, you know what it's like to be afraid some times." OK, I thought, isn't universally true of wheelchair users, but probably a good percentage. Then, I asked, "If I hadn't come along, who then?" He said, without hesitation, "An older woman carrying bags." Wow. Specific.
I asked him if there were any people he wouldn't ask, "Mom says to be careful of people who are too friendly. A little friendly is OK. But not too friendly. Like if they touch me all the time like some people do. Patting my arm or my shoulder or rubbing my hair, those people are people who might be nice, might be dangerous, I can't trust any of them because I don't know which they are." I saw that he was anxious to get on his way, I also saw I was in danger of falling into the 'too friendly' category, not because I'd touched him at all but because my questions took so much time and effort to answer. I seemed nosy. We wished him well. Watched him change sides and directions. His subway train came before ours did.
He was gone.
And I had lots to think about.