It was shortly after seven on a recent chilly weeknight on the Upper West Side.
I was doing some after work multitasking – laundry and food shopping at my market on Upper Broadway, Fairway. I had just tossed my clothes in a drier and then made a beeline to purchase foodstuffs. As I was exiting Fairway in my usual irrational hurry, as if walking faster would somehow make my chores finish sooner, I noticed an elderly man with a cane walking stiffly. The expression on his face looked disoriented. I wondered:
Me: Is he okay? Am I supposed to do something here?
He had a thick thatch of snow-white hair and was wearing crisply pressed casual clothes and immaculate white sneakers. His cane looked like it was made from some fancy wood, not a piece of crap you can buy at The Piece of Crap store. I figured that he was a long time Upper West Side resident, probably a lifelong liberal that made good money, has had at least one wife and a few kids and grandkids. It’s possible that his family loves him very much. He probably is respected amongst his peers, however many of them are still kicking. He didn’t look like a bastard and might have even had dogs and cats in his life. Possibly he might even have or had a crazy bird bursting with personality like my longtime bud, BatPat, and her feathered friend, Buttafuoco.
For all I know he might even have a lovely aquarium in his home right now. This old guy was very likely a good guy, someone who will be sorely missed by many when he buys his rainbow.
As I walked on, I was haunted by the likelihood that this fellow was in the throes of some sort of health emergency. Since I did notice him, I was his human Life Alert. How could I walk on? What if this man was my own Dear Old Dad, there was a woman like me that noticed that he might be in trouble, but she ignored the signs and walked away? I thought:
Me: You cold-hearted bitch. I hate you!
Instantly, I suffered Grade A level guilt. I turned back to look at the man on the bustling avenue, narrowly avoiding getting run over by two completely oblivious teenage girls that had just blown past him. They momentarily obscured my view of what was going on with this fine fellow. This prompted me to think:
Me (thinking): Just the type of brats that would suck the marrow out of their grandfathers’ bones! Ingrates!
Quickly, my senior citizen was back in view. He was now looking quite contorted — bent at the waist, knees starting to buckle, awkwardly holding his cane with his left hand while reaching down towards the sidewalk with his right. I reasoned that he was desperately trying to break the hard fall that was surely coming. I gasped. I shifted the gears in my feet to turbo-charge. Arthritic knee be damned! With puffs of exhaust jetting out of my butt-ugly hybrid winter boot-sneakers courtesy of the Land’s End Women of a Certain Age Exchange Style for Price collection, I motored to his rescue. I could hear him groaning. I screamed inside my head:
Me: Hang on, Mister! A lot of people love you!
As I was almost upon him, I realized that he wasn’t suffering a stroke or a heart attack. He was reaching down to pick up a nickel off the sidewalk.