Tag Archives: daily life

Witnessing the Insane – guest blogger Susannah Bianchi

I am happy to introduce my first guest blogger ever: model, writer, and New Yorker, Susannah Bianchi. She is also the genius behind athingirl.com, a blog where she shares her experiences and adventures of living in the Big Apple, all with sparkling wit and a deep heart.

She also has a great book out: Notes From a Working Cat, the memoir of a sophisticated little feline named Maya. I would definitely recommend it.

Notes from a Working Cat

Witnessing the Insane

It’s not uncommon to be on the New York subway in the company of a crazy person. It’s free advertising after all, for their insanity.

Some ask for money, some just babble and I’ll admit, from years of bearing witness, I’m more than a little removed.

You often wonder, is this legit…another well-honed act, because despite how many times you are assaulted by the unexpected pounce, you just don’t know.

There’s the man who lost everything in a fire who asks for alms in English and Spanish, but Spanish so fluent you wonder why he can’t get a job at the embassy.

We have another fellow on the 6 Train who’s been needing 18 dollars to get back home since 1993. He could have been around the world 18 times by now.

I’m a regular rider, so I see them all the time, but a tourist or visitor gets clobbered, wallets out, bills expected.

But every once in a while, a poor, legitimate soul will even get to me.

Last night on the train, coming home, a kid maybe 16 got on. He was all shriveled, like a vegetable left in the fridge too long. His right hand had that stricken fist suggesting a stroke, or some kind of permanent paralysis. His legs were puny, the right half the size of the left. What really spoke to me was his facial expression that looked as if he had been punched so hard, his face couldn’t get back to normal.

It was pain, false or otherwise, making me take an extreme pause.

He was screaming for help at the top of his lungs, his bent legs dragging him down the car. I never saw so many people so clearly affected.

He was young, like a hurt cub, and in my heart, I knew, this was not feigned.

Dollars came out like pennies from heaven shoving them in his one good hand. He said nothing as he held them, not even putting them in a safe place, as though he wasn’t even conscious of the response.

I sat there praying for him.

Suddenly my 14-hour workday felt like a grace as opposed to a grind. I remembered how I walked 30 blocks in the morning to get some exercise in…could this kid do that, let alone have a regular workday lasting that long?

My humility came and sat beside me whispering…Susannah, how blessed and blessed and blessed you are.

I got off at the 86th Street stop to take the crosstown bus, still hearing him screech in the distance.

 

– Susannah Bianchi

 

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A slice of humanity on the bus

All writers should take the bus, at least every now and then. Or the subway. Really anywhere where you can observe a lot of different people up close. I take the bus almost every day and I see some interesting people.

Last Thursday, I was taking the bus out into the countryside to one of my four schools. I was sitting in the back when a mentally handicapped man and an older man got on and sat down next to me, the  handicapped one closer to me. He was interested in my book and pointed at it and gave me a thumbs up. Then he motioned to the older man and said, “He’s my dad.” This caused the older man to start laughing, so I didn’t know if he really was his father or not. I just said, “Oh, really?” “Oh, I see” and such things, since he kept saying it.

A lot of the people on the bus were older and seemed to know each other, so I felt like I was in kind of a community meeting. Then the handicapped man said, “He’s fifty” pointing to his “dad”, who started laughing even harder and said, “Yeah, I wish I were fifty again.” I really liked the older man; just a jolly sort of fellow.

A middle-aged woman came back, and saw there weren’t any seats left, so I gave her mine. Her husband was still standing up, with his backpack on. “Hey groom!” she yelled (Korean woman often call their husbands “groom”, although I’ve never heard a man call his wife “bride”). “Hey groom! It’s going to be a long ride. Take off your heavy backpack.” He took it off and put it on the floor with a grin. “That’s my groom for you,” she said. I saw other older women smiling and nodding as well. They understood.

The two men who were sitting next to me got off a few stops before me and the handicapped one gave me an awkward high-five. I smiled and said good bye. I went back and sat where they had been sitting and the woman I had given up my seat to apologized. I’m not sure why but possibly because she thought the handicapped man was bothering me. “Not a problem,” I said. “It’s okay.” And I meant it. I may never totally fit in here in Korea, but I do enjoy being a part of things anyway.

*

By the way, a few days ago, I posted something called The Mystery on the Bus, recounting another experience I had on a bus coming home from school. I asked people what they thought was going on. The first virtual high-five is for Carmelita, for the wackiest idea (I almost wish it were true), and the second is for EadesyBeadsy, for what I think is the most likely answer. Good job!

High five!

High five!


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