Sunday, February 17, 2008


This city must be tough on people who aren't nimble and able-bodied. I know it's tough on people who are nimble and able-bodied. And it can't be easy to navigate the broken sidewalks and the intersections with no traffic lights or stop signs if you're blind, in a wheelchair, or just old.

Twice in the last 72 hours I've had elderly people ask me to help them across the street.

And of course, I helped them — after we negotiated a price.

No, no. I'm just kidding, of course.

The prices are non-negotiable.

All right. Fine. I did it for free. Now you're beginning to see why I'm flirting with financial ruin.

Now, I don't have much occasion to use the formal "Usted" form of Spanish, but if you're old enough to ask me to help you cross the street, you can bet I'll call you señor(a) and refer to you in the third person.

Today I was listening to Andrés Calamaro's double album Honestidad Brutal on my iPod when a hunched-over man waved at me. "Would you just help me to that street corner?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

We chatted while we waited for the light to change. He told me that he had some amiguitos (little friends) waiting at the cafe for him, some of the few who were still OK in the head. They were going to talk and watch a little television. The owner of the place was a friend of his.

The light changed and he grabbed my arm while he started to inch across the street. He told me about his joint problems, and how he had just fallen and injured his knee. He said he hoped he wasn't being a bother. I told him not to worry about it. I was going to cross the street anyway, wasn't I?

When we got to the door of the cafe, he stuck out his hand and said, "¡Señor! ¡Muchas gracias!" I think that's the only time someone here has addressed me as something other than "che." I patted him on the shoulder and told him to take care of himself.

Before I put my headphones back in, my mind played back what he had said to me when we started crossing the street:

"I'm 80 years old, you know? My joints are no good. My body isn't what it was. But I still have the mind of a 60 year old!"


Lor said...

Just think, you're racking up the Good Karma. Helping little old people across the street, there's nothing more noble. Unless you save a kitten from a burning building.

Dan said...

Hah! Well, I think my track record suggests that you'll hear about it if I ever do.