Lessons in Life


A short story by J. Ian Garner(That's me.)



It’s a nice day today, Bob thought while he was walking down the street.  He didn’t have any particular destination, which was unusual for him.  A strange compulsion had led him outside this Monday morning.  The sun was raining down on the streets.  Many of the spring birds were singing, together their notes seemed to create a minor chord.  It was during this Monday morning walk that Bob had a chance meeting that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

During the walk he came upon a busy intersection, and a very strange sight accompanying it.  There was an old blind man, with gray hairs and cane in hand, waiting to cross the street.  There was no seeing-eye dog, accompanying him, nor was there another person there to lead him across.  Seeing this Bob felt a need to talk to the man as great as the Sun’s need to rise in the morning.

            “Hello there,” said Bob.

            “Hello,” replied the blind man.

            “I feel horrible asking you this, but how is it that you can cross a busy street without help?”

            “It’s not that hard, you just put one foot in front of the other and before you know it you’re on the other side.”

            Bob, starting to turn red, continued his line of questioning, “That’s not quite what I meant.  What I was trying to ask was, how is it you manage not to get hit by a car?”

            The blind man’s lips started to curve slightly upwards as he answered “Oh, that’s simple, you just don’t walk in front of them when they’re moving.  How old are you that you haven’t figured this out yet?”

            Bob started to stammer out “W-w-well, I’m 32, but–“

            The blind man cut him off “We should really cross now, while the traffic is stopped, do you want a lesson?”

            “No, well okay, hrmmm…” Bob said with a slight frown, as he crossed the street following the blind man.  He watched in utter amazement as the blind man crossed the street with the same grace that a swan has when it is in flight.  When they reached the other side of the street Bob continued, “What I meant initially is that you can’t see right?”

            “If you want to talk we could sit down.  There is a park about a block from here, sometimes I go there to sit and enjoy the surroundings.”

            “You still haven’t answered my question…”

            “I will, just let me get somewhere where I can give my old bones a rest.  I have a feeling we might end up talking for a little bit,” was the blind man’s reply.  So with little choice Bob followed him to the park.  They walked in silence.  As they made their way to a bench in the park the blind man dodged cracks in the pavement, curbs, and gopher holes.  One of the cracks caught Bob’s foot and he stumbled slightly.  Bob thought, how does he do it, these cracks would be like mountains to me if I were in his position.

            When they got to the bench they both sat down, there was a pop from the blind man’s back like that of burning firewood.  “Well, you’ve gotten awfully quiet, what was it that you were trying to ask me?”

            “What?” Bob asked almost as if he had just woken from a coma, “Oh yea, since you can’t see, how is it that you know when the traffic stops?”

            “Oh, is that all you wanted to know, you should have just come out and said it right away,” the blind man said obviously enjoying his little game with Bob, “It’s rather simple, all you have to do is listen.”

            “But, that’s a busy intersection, when the traffic stops from one direction the traffic in the other starts right up…”

            “Is that a question?  It sounded more like a statement, but I’ll bet it’s a question.  You see you can tell that the traffic has switched directions because there is a slight pause when it does; also the sound comes from different places.  As you can see I’ve made it this far in my life without getting seriously injured, so why don’t you believe me that I can cross a busy intersection?  You should also wipe that frown off your face, it doesn’t fit you.”

            “Huh,” Bob said, he hadn’t even noticed that he’d been frowning “How did you… Never mind, I guess I’m asking because I’m going through a difficult time right now, I just lost my job a few weeks ago.  It’s been really hard for me to get motivated to start looking for a new one, and now my bills are starting to rack up.  I’m not sure I’m going to be able to pay them all.  I just have all these worries floating around through my head, and then I see you crossing that busy intersection back there and I can’t even begin to imagine having to deal with what you have to ever day.”

            “Oh, life isn’t so bad.  So what is it you did for a living?”

            “Well, I was a web-designer for Stuff.com until they went under.  All the execs had gotten rich off the stock before the company went chapter 11, and most of the grunts like me just lost their jobs.  Most of the retirement money I’ve been putting away, along with my savings was in the company stock, so with the bankruptcy I really don’t have much left.”

            “Wow, I’m not sure I would be able handle a setback like that, but I’m pretty old so I’m set in my ways and don’t really have to worry about those things too much anymore.  The government takes care of me for the most part.”

            “But to me it seems that your everyday tasks would be more difficult than what I’m up against.  I mean for you crossing the street doesn’t even seem like it would be a certainty.”

            “Do we need to go over the whole crossing the street method again?  You make what I do sound a lot more difficult than it actually is.  To make it through the day I try not to let the little things drag me down.  I don’t want to get nickeled and dimed to death.  I save my worrying for big problems.  I figure if I can take one step I can take ten, if I can take ten steps I can take 100, if I can take 100 steps I can take 1,000,” with a chuckle he added, “the same goes for intersections.  You could learn a lot if you just opened your eyes a bit.  You seem like an intelligent man, I’m sure there will be someone else out there who will hire you.  You just need to take that first step, and you’ll make it.”

And with that the blind man got up and went on his way leaving Bob to sit there in wonder.  As Bob watched the blind man fade into the distance, the day seemed even nicer than it had when he had started on his walk that morning.  The sun was gently caressing his cheeks, and the birds were singing in a major chord.

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