The other day my son and I were waiting for the metro and a blind woman walked by us on the platform. My son asked worriedly how she would detect the edge of the platform. Having observed that she stopped walking and chose a safe place to stand, I assured him that she was fine and reminded him of the bumps on the ground, placed there to warn of the platform edge. Two minutes passed and our train came. We entered a different door than the blind woman, but I noticed as we were stepping in, that two men had pushed their way onto the metro in front of the blind woman. She made it into the train car just fine, but it surprised me that no one else seemed shocked, or angry, that these men had so selfishly helped themselves to the metro before her.
We live in a large city, Paris to be exact. It is a densely packed, old ville, with little room for a change in infrastructure that would accommodate more people comfortably. As in most big cities, people begin to pay attention only to themselves while on the streets. Rush hours are, as the name implies, rushed. They are also aggressive in a very unpleasant way – whether moving by foot, car, bus or metro. People look ahead with sharp as razor looks that seem to say, “don’t you dare block my way or slow me down!”
I described the scene of the two men and the blind woman to my husband later that evening on our walk home from dinner. As I was talking we came to a corner and waited for the light to change. A car pulled up and a woman stepped out. She seemed to be in the usual Paris rush. She stood next to me for an instant before she turned, and proceeded to walk into me. When she realized that I was there, she stopped, waited for the light, then jumped off the curb and cut me off as she crossed my path. My husband and I gave each other knowing looks and started to walk across the street. As we walked my son suddenly exclaimed, “Maybe that woman is also blind but she forgot her stick!” I think he is right! Many of us, especially in big cities, begin to walk blindly… without our sticks. It takes effort to truly observe one’s surroundings and be conscious of one’s own behavior. It is difficult to avoid slumping in with the rat-raced. The exhausted masses seem to grab on and pull you into their mental fog as they walk by zombie-like.
A simple smile can often break the zombie-like trance of the person walking towards you, bringing him or her back to humanity. Try it next time your find yourself commuting home through crowds on the metro, or in the grocery store line, or while you wait for take-out on your way home. I smile at people on the metro who are staring at me or my son, it takes them off guard and reminds them that we are all human and that we need to treat each other like we each have a place on this earth. It doesn’t always work, but it usually makes me feel more human at least… I prefer to commute with a few smiles than in a grumpy fog. It’s better for my mental health!
This is a food blog however, and it is probably time to direct this discussion towards our blindness with food. The commuting fog described above can hang about well after the commute is over, extending into the dinner hour. If you have a rushed, aggressive, grumpy attitude throughout dinner preparation, you may turn a blind eye to the creative cook inside that is being pushed down by your commuter zombie. Maybe you would try more interesting spices, or change the routine more often if you did not feel so worn down when you entered the kitchen each evening. Maybe you would invite your children to help you prepare the meals more often. There are ways to turn off this zombie when you enter your kitchen in the evening, to open your eyes to meal preparation… even when it has been a long day and you feel exhausted. I will discuss methods that I use in my next post. In the meantime, please share in the comments some of the tricks and techniques you may use to make the evening routine more pleasant! I leave you with a smile and the following quotation from William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, from his book “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1790-1793):
“The most sublime act is to set another before you”