Thursday, November 8, 2007

Living in Oblivion

While riding the train to work this morning, I noticed a disheveled man sprawled across a short segment of seats. He looked to be in bad shape, and I wondered whether he was alive. That thought wouldn't have crossed my mind had I not read a story a while back about a dead man who rode the 1 train for several hours before anyone noticed that he was dead. When I read that story, I was troubled by the seeming invisibility of the dead man. But it wasn't difficult to understand how something like that could happen. I could easily imagine myself as one of the other passengers enveloped within the three-inch perimeter around me that formed my zone of concern. And that bothered me.

So this morning, after the thoughts above swirled through my head, I made it a point to look for the subway car's ID number. I figured I'd call MTA after getting above ground to advise that they should send someone to check up on the man. Not long afterwards, we pulled into Penn Station, and two policemen stepped in to examine the man. I was glad that someone had been thoughtful enough to alert the police. But as the minutes passed with the train idling while the police did their thing, my thoughts skipped tracks from concern for the man to concern about getting to the office on time for a conference call. And I quickly hopped off and scurried to the uptown local platform, betting that a local train would come and depart before the police finished their thing.

Just another reminder of how fast things move in this city.