I first noticed the matching yellow shirts. Three early-twenty-somethings were chattering non-stop on the Aero Train platform at Dulles Airport. Perfect skin. Perfect teeth. The perfect time of life. I figured the eternally happy trio must be on their way to one of those summer religious pilgrimages. Until I saw their three matching “May I help you?” buttons.
Good thing that none of the crowd waiting for the train seemed to need help, because there was none in sight.
Then I spotted an early-thirties woman who might need help. She was blind. She had a jet-black companion dog. An airport employee was escorting her toward the train stop. Turned inward, none of the may-I-help-you trio noticed the woman until the employee got close enough to interrupt the yellow chatter. “Would you help her when the train comes?”
I watched, wondering what would happen when Obligation vanquishes Oblivion. Is it possible, even though your job is to help travelers, that a blind person could be seen as an interruption in your day?
One of the young men sprang into action. Well, sort of. Yellow Shirt’s version of a helpful greeting to the blind woman was simply, “It’s here!” The train stopped. The doors opened. Yellow Shirt walked onto the train with the woman and her dog. I followed, still watching and wondering. Then Yellow Shirt gave his version of goodbye: “Yours is the very next stop!” He whirled and left the train, leaving the woman and her dog to figure out what will happen after The Very Next Stop.
I sprung into the kind of action my dad taught me decades ago, before I became an early-twenty-something.
“Hello. My name’s Tom.”
“Hi, Tom. I’m Bianca.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“She’s really beautiful. How long have you two been together?
“Beautiful. Hey, I’m headed to Terminal B, too. What’s your gate number?”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m going to San Francisco.”
“I love San Francisco. I worked there for five years in the 70’s. Bianca, I’d be happy to check the departure board for you, if you’d like.”
“Thanks. That would be great. San Francisco’s my home.”
Bianca and Macy and I got off at The Very Next Stop. We had to make a quick left turn leading to a short escalator leading to a short walk leading to another turn leading to a longer walk leading to a long escalator leading to a flight status board. I checked Bianca’s flight and walked the couple to their gate.
While I was serving as conductor, announcing in advance to Bianca (and Macy) each twist and turn in our route, I was thinking about Yellow Shirt. How well would he have done had I blindfolded him and abandoned him on the Aero Train with one clue: “Yours is the very next stop!” I would have tied his blindfold tight. Very tight.
So…of the cast of characters in this true story, who do you think should be labeled the most “visually impaired”? Not to mention “empathy-impaired” and “responsibility-impaired.”
The lesson from this true story? There are many. I’ll suggest one and you can post others:
What’s your true story these days? Are you spending most of your time turning inward, either to yourself or to your same-old-same-old buddies? think about turning more of your time and attention outward.
There’s a lot to see.