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Rant #235
(published July 14, 2005)
The Blind Accordion Player
by Jason Polan
There was a blind man playing an accordion on the train the other day. The accordion was shiny and green. People walk through the center aisle of the train asking for spare change on a fairly regular basis. Maybe one out of four of them are doing some sort of act. They play a guitar or sing a song or do a dance hoping you will either be impressed or feel incredibly sorry for them (or both) and give them some money. The blind man came into the train car from the car behind us and started playing his accordion. He was sort of playing quietly which is what initially got my attention. The people are usually loud which, for some reason, makes them easier to ignore. I looked over at him and realized that he was blind. He was playing with a stick attached to his arm. The stick had a wheel attached to its end that was rolling along behind him. I think it was assisting his walking in a straight line. The train car was crowded with several people standing in the aisle who moved out of his way as he passed. The man standing across from me went into his backpack and got all of the change in it, at least four or five dollars, and put it in the man's cup when he passed between us. The cup was attached to his right shoulder. Most of the people were watching the blind man as he walked through quietly playing. He didn't stop his playing or say thank you when change was dropped in the cup. It was as if he was playing because he wanted to, not realizing he had an audience. There was one family that didn't notice the man. The family consisted of a mother and father sitting on the same side of the train as I was standing. They had a son with Down Syndrome sitting across from them. He had a big black backpack that was sitting next to him. His parents were trying to explain to him that he needed to pick it up so that somebody could sit there because the train was getting crowded but he couldn't understand them. He looked at his parents with his mouth open; his tongue resting on his bottom lip as he stared. His father was bald and looked tired as his mother quietly asked him to move the bag. She had a smile on her face. The accordion player nudged the boy's black shoe as he walked by the family unnoticed. He made it to the end of the train car, bumped the door that separates the individual cars as he stopped the playing, he unlatched the door and walked through to the next car.

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