Commuting in NYC with a Broken Ankle

Well, it's not really broken anymore.

Suffice it to say, getting around while on crutches is the toughest part of this recovery.  Well, that and the fact that I'm not able to currently run or ride.  Not being mobile is really frustrating.  Please don't get me wrong, I know there are people out there that deal with being physically challenged every day - and they manage it famously.  I applaud them for their perseverance and tenacity in getting around New York City without blinking an eye.  I, however, am having a difficult time with this.

Normally, on any given day, once I've arrived at Grand Central Terminal (coming in off the Metro North commuter rail) I can walk to my office in just under 15 minutes.  If the weather is bad I can take the subway and if I'm lucky in my timing I can be at my office in just under 10 minutes.  This past week my commute from Grand Central Terminal to my office, via the subway, took upwards of 40 minutes.  I had a learning curve as I navigated the New York subway system looking for elevators, ramps, and handicapped facilities.  There were a couple of times where I was forced to navigate stairs as not all subway entrances are equipped for wheelchairs, and to get around one needs to navigate to an alternate subway entrance and backtrack.  Being impatient, the stairs seemed quicker at the time.  In hindsight I'm not so sure.

Save for being exhausted, and a bit sweaty, navigating the mass transit system isn't all that terrible.  It's just overly time consuming.  For the most part people are accommodating and patient as I try to stay out of everyone's way.  My fear of navigating the subway being on par to participating in the 'Running of the Bulls' in Pamplona was thankfully proven wrong.  Well, not exactly.  If I avoid rush hour, it's not too bad.

There was, however, one trip this past week where I had an interesting experience.  I boarded the Metro North commuter rail train, one towards the end of the morning rush hour to avoid the heavy crowds, and was greeted with a very full, standing room only, rail car.  This isn't uncommon on the Metro North lines as anyone who frequents the trains  can attest to.  But I was now faced with balancing on my right leg for most of the trip down to the city as I can't yet put a lot of weight on my left leg.  I stood in the vestibule, grabbed one of the railings, and waited for the train to start moving.

A few minutes into the trip I wondered if anyone would potentially offer me their seat.  Now, let me preface this with I didn't really need to sit down.  I'm not in pain, I'm not in a hard cast, and I can at least put my left leg down to help balance myself.  My fear, though, was should the train stop in a hurry or lurch to the side if we changed tracks quickly, I would have been hard pressed to stay stable.  Anyway, short version: Nobody offered me a seat.  Lots of people looked at me, looked at my crutches and walking boot, and then went back to their reading or what-not.  A couple people even made eye contact - some on more than one occasion - and turned away with a sheepish look.  One woman did wave to me from her seat and motion to me, asking if I wanted to sit.  I declined.  First because I just didn't feel that it was necessary to take a seat from an elderly lady.  Second, she was in the far middle of the rail car, and there were people standing in the aisles.  In a moving train, that's like an obstacle course.  I never would have made it there without causing some level of carnage.

Was I irritated at this whole scenario?  A little.  I'll admit, had the younger guy who couldn't stop looking at me during the trip offered his seat - which was about 2 feet from where I was standing - I would have taken it.....well, maybe.  Honestly, had most of the folks in the vicinity offered their seat I most likely would have smiled and said "thank you, but I'm fine".  It would have been nice to have had the offer made, though.  It would have reinforced my belief that people are genuinely good and somewhat thoughtful.   My theory on the non-existence of, for lack of a better term, chivalry?  I think that when people looked up they saw a fairly fit person and perhaps made a judgment call on what they saw - and looked past the injury.

I guess what makes me curious is that I'm not sure I know what demographic people are looking for before they offer up a seat.  What ailment, age, malady, or severity of injury is required?  Considering that each and every time I've been on the subway in the city people have asked if I wanted a seat, I found this all to be very interesting.