Friday, February 19, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog

This post will not be about beer.  Or travel.  Or even about Blue Man Group (though that blog is overdue).  This post will be about man’s inhumanity to man.

You know, that high school Lit theme that your teacher dragged out to describe just about any depressing novel or short story you read?  I’m no Joseph Conrad, but I had a small taste of what he wrote about.  No, I wasn’t purposely targeted by another human being for degradation or humiliation or plain old pain.  Nope.  Nothing that fancy.  I was simply ignored when human contact was needed.

As most accidents are, mine was unplanned.  (See the definition of “accident”.)  I’d need serious psychological help if I planned to throw myself down a set of concrete steps in a train station.  But down the steps I went, tail over teakettle, as my Anglophile friends would say.  Was I drunk?  Not on one Swiss beer.  Was I paying attention to where I put my feet?  Probably not.  And so I missed a step and suddenly felt the world flashing by in a tumbling motion.

It happened so quickly; I felt pain and heard myself yell, “Oh, my God!”.  Then I was at the bottom of the stairs, lying in a heap.  I was stunned, not able to move, but I saw a youngish man walking away from me, quickly, pretending he hadn’t seen or heard me.  But a young woman stopped and looked at me, waiting to see what I’d do.  She just stood there.  Never mind the language barrier; if I’d seen someone fall, I’d be over to them in a flash to see if they were okay.  I lay there, collecting my wits and trying to make sense of what happened; she walked away a few steps, then turned back again.  I was trembling, and trying to get up, and still she made no move towards me.  Finally, as I struggled to my feet, she walked away.

Oddly enough, as I sat down on a nearby bench to figure out what to do next, I tweeted about it.  What that says about me, I don’t know; maybe I was just trying to reach out to any human, anywhere.  I needed someone to say, holy crap!  Are you okay?  As it turns out, I was very, very lucky.  My right forearm is mighty swollen and scraped, and the elbow is very sore; I don’t want to see what my left leg looks like when the bruises start to bloom.  I didn’t break anything, sprain anything, or hit my head on the concrete.  My guardian angel was with me Wednesday night.

The whole incident makes me wonder what the hell has gone wrong with our society.  My favorite cultural commentators, the Blue Man Group, have had a decades-long  running theme about urban isolation and how we’re reaching out to connect with people across the world, but not the ones right next to us.  Are we so self-absorbed that we can’t stop our busy lives, even for a second, to help someone in need?  Are we unable to see outside our own self-centered worlds to notice that people right here need help, not just in Haiti or Darfur or the next third-world disaster site?

I hope not.  I’d like to think that had it been earlier in the day, not 10:45 p.m., with more people around, that someone would have stopped.  Regardless, it’s enough to give me pause when I realize that’s a danger of traveling alone that I hadn’t taken into account.  It’s not enough to stop me from traveling, but I certainly will watch where I put my feet from now on.

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