So I was tooling around the neighborhood checking out the ghetto superstores and whatnot. Now...to picture the scene that's about to unfold, I have to describe a little bit of the local geography. By and large, Philly works pretty well on keeping the streets to a nice, convenient, right-angle grid layout. One major exception to that is one major thoroughfare in these parts that runs all the way from the end of West Philly over to the Drexel campus and cuts through the nice grid at a 45-degree diagonal. Now...the street grid is made up of rectangles and not squares, which is to say that the city blocks are fairly irregularly sized and shaped, so every once in a while, this 45-degree street will run through a regular grid intersection, which makes for a weird and confusing six-way intersection; four ways along cardinal directions, and two extra outlets that go along the diagonal. As a brief aside, I will point out that, somehow, they manage to run these six-way intersections on only four directions of traffic signals. No, I don't really know how that works, but...well, I don't drive in this town, so...
Anyway. So it was at one of these crazy intersections where I noticed an old blind man meandering in circles in the middle of the intersection. He was sweeping his cane along the street and appeared to get flustered whenever he encountered the trolley tracks, because it would cause him to turn slightly, whereupon he would run into another set of trolley tracks, turn again, etc. He was like stuck in this weird Bermuda Triangle of street terrain. So that was bad enough, but at every light change, cars would drive around this guy as he continued to wander around and try to find his way to land. I mean, Jesus Christ. I know people drive through the ghetto and don't want to stop, but for fuck's sake, do you think this is some kind of trap or something? Are you in that much of a hurry?
So I trotted out there, and as I got closer, I could hear the guy was shouting as he wandered. "Hey! HEEEYYY! IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?!" Fucking broke my heart, man. I called out and tried to get him to stop randomly darting around until I got there. After a final SUV managed to evade the both of us, I got to the dude and asked where he was headed. Turns out he was going to a check-cashing place that was only like half a block away. (It's a miracle I even knew where the place was, but luckily it was just one of those storefronts that stuck in my mind.) So with his hand on my shoulder, we got (firstly) out the street and (secondly) to his intended destination. All the while he was complaining about how broken everything was (I guess he meant the street; I'm not sure if he knew about the trolley tracks) and how he got stuck crossing the road. In my own mind, I was reviewing how I was sure it didn't help that he was surrounded by six different directions of traffic that, while thoughtfully deviating from their courses enough to not actually run over the guy, still couldn't be bothered to help him get out of harm's way.
The thing is...I know he was there for at least several minutes, because I could see him from down the block as I was approaching the intersection. Now I will admit...at first sight, I didn't think much of it, because let's be honest, this is the kind of place where people just wander around in the street sometimes. The most notable recent example to come to my mind is this one crackhead who hangs out all day in front of the donut shop; I've see him shake and gibber his way out onto the middle of the avenue...and really there's nothing to be done there but go around him until he shakes and gibbers his way back to his spot in front of the donut shop. So maybe you just get numb after a while, and you come to learn that if there's a dude wandering around in the middle of the street, you just drive around him and go about your day. But it's not like I was the only pedestrian out on the street, either. So what's the instinct when you see a guy with a white cane walking in circles with cars swerving around him? "He'll figure it out on his own"? People crack me up.