Friday, June 20, 2008

And who is my neighbor?

Neil Gaiman, pagan author extraordinaire, has this up on his blog today--

The toilets on many trains in the UK have ridiculously unintuitive ways to open and close doors, with mystery buttons inside the toilet to close and lock the door that are hard to find, even for the sighted. I watched a blind man head into the train toilet. He couldn't find the door to close it, said "excuse me, can some help me?" until a fat man in a suit sitting next to the toilet stopped pretending he wasn't there and pressed the close door button for him. Then I watched the fat man hurry down the aisle and past me and back into the next compartment for all the world as if he was embarrassed by what had just happened. Soon enough there came a frantic knocking on the toilet door as, obviously, the blind man couldn't get out (secret, randomly placed buttons would do it, but you have to find them first). And there was a carriage full of people between me and the toilet, so I waited for someone to get up, press the outside button and let him out. And nobody did. now the knocking started again, louder, and more panicked, and I looked out at a carriage filled with people who were pretending very hard they hadn't heard, and were all now gazing intently at their books or papers. So I got up and walked down to the toilet and let the man out, and showed him back to his seat, because it's the least I'd want if I was blind, and it's how you treat a fellow human being, and for heaven's sake. And then I went back to my seat, and everyone looked up at me and stared and smiled with relieved "thank god someone did that" smiles, and I sat down grumpy and puzzled and remain grumpy and puzzled about it still. I'm still trying to work out what on earth was going on there -- I don't think I did anything good or clever or nice. I just did what I would have thought anyone would do. Except a train filled with people didn't, and in one case actively appeared to be running away in order not to. And I puzzle over, was this a carriage filled with particularly self-centred or embarrassed people, has something fundamental changed in the years I've been away from the UK (unlikely, and I don't believe in lost Golden Ages), did those other people really somehow blindly fail to notice that there was a blind man trapped in the toilet...? I have no idea and I write it down because, as I said, it puzzles and irritates me, and if it ever turns up in a short story you'll know why.

For this post, I'm adding a new label for my list . . . borrowed from my husband. "Orthopraxy" . . . . or in layman's terms, actually living out what you supposedly believe.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Sara, the more time passes on this earth the less I believe in the phrase that 'people want to do the right thing'. I recently saw a video of a man that was ran over by a car and was laying in the street and people just walked right on by. What is happening. Thank you for doing to the least of these....
BTW-What do they do with the toilet paper in those things?? LOL.