A woman got on in White Plains this morning.
She wore a neat black and white checked suit, the three buttons on her jacket clasped.
She had straight brown hair with a touch of grey (Grateful Dead reference intended). It was clear that her eyes, not covered by dark glasses, did not work. She also had a black lab working dog in tow.
The dog led the woman to the aisle seat of a four-seater; the riders did their best to move their feet, their bags, their briefcases out of the way.
All eyes were on the woman, because you don’t see a blind person every day, you know you can stare without impunity, and seeing-eye dogs are one of the most fascinating things to watch.
The blind woman sipped a massive coffee with Andrew’s written across it. Her posture was impeccable, her manner almost dainty. Over time, her neighbors threw some polite questions her way. The dog was named Princess, she’s eight, and she’s been a working dog for most of her life. One man commented on how good the dog was about squeezing into a tiny space between her feet and the feet of the woman facing her in the four-seater.
“You should see the little ball she sleeps in at night,” said the blind woman.
The man across the aisle, gray hair, gray suit, eyeglasses stuck his collar, said he had a black lab too. What’s the name, asked the blind woman. Garcia, said the man — the dog is so laid back the man named him after Jerry Garcia, he explained.
“Another Dead-Head!” said the blind woman.
They discussed the Grateful Dead. The blind woman said she could always tell Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing, even when he was playing on other bands’ albums.
As we rolled into Grand Central, the woman extended her arm to allow her watch to peek out of her sleeve. What function could the watch possibly perform for a blind woman, I wondered. She lifted the glass face of the watch and fingered the digits. Braille!
The blind woman said she needed to get to a job interview on time. She and her neighbors lamented the chronic lateness of the morning train.
As we crawled past 59th, the woman asked Garcia’s master for directions to the subway. He said he’d take her there himself. She said that wasn’t necessary, she just needed directions. He insisted on escorting her.
She said thank you.
“Not a problem,” said Garcia. “Not. A. Problem.”
The blind woman affixed a clip to the back of her hair and smoothed out of her suit. The train eased to a stop. Princess stood up and plotted their exit.