On the Sidewalks of New York

As The Nothing Expert, I pride myself on doing nothing well. But sometimes doing nothing may be the wrong solution to life’s ethical dilemmas. This is a true story.

On the corner of East 34th. Street and Park Avenue in New York City, a very tired older lady walks to her bus stop. She worries that she might fall and break her hip, so she is careful where she places her feet. Thusly, just as she reaches her bus stop, she narrowly sidesteps a humungous pile of excrement lying in the middle of the sidewalk. The excrement was definitely deposited there by a very large mammal, perhaps an elephant.

The old lady’s bus always comes late, and, so she stands at her bus stop waiting, and watching. She is the only one standing still on the busy sidewalk, near the pile of excrement.

She can tell the tourists because they are all looking up at the Empire State Building and they wear white sneakers. She can tell the regulars because they are not looking up, nor are they looking at the ground.  Most are doing something with their phones which the old lady has never been able to master while walking, or even sitting. Some of the walkers are students from the nearby high schools, who are having fun, shoving, smacking, and smooching with each other. Some of the walkers are shoppers, laden with shopping bags. Some of the walkers are being helped by caregivers. Some of the walkers look mean and angry.

The older woman watches the walkers approaching the pile in the middle of the sidewalk. They do not see it. What is her duty (ahem) to them? Should she help? Or should she turn away? What would you do? What would you say?

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