Having ridden the Orange Line (in Boston) for some 30 years now, I can honestly say that I have seen and / or experienced almost everything. From rowdy, troublemakers harassing passengers to gropers rubbing against women (I walked one woman to her office before going to mine just to make sure she was safe from the pervert following her) and they even had the opportunity of viewing the "member" of a man smiling at me from across a near empty train. I've seen people sit while a blind man stand (I yelled at them on my way out), and others pick their noses like sweet fruit from a tree.
From afar, I've seen pregnant women standing, struggling to hold on as the train jerked back and forth, and accidents and medical emergencies since before my eyes. Yes, I have even intervened in an attempted robbery while a crowd of women and men stood and stared … I know, I know … not very smart, but I guess my instinct to help kicked in.
But I think if you ride the T long enough (and you're lucky), you just might see some considerate, albeit rare, images as well. Like this morning on my way to work, I noticed a most impressive sight.
A young man in a wheel chair boarded the train at the second stop. He looked about twenty years old, healthy in his face and upper body except for handicapped arms and hands and legs and feet. He sat quietly, not making eye contact with anyone, while expertly manipulating the controls on his chair so as not to be in the way as people exited and entered the train car. I usually feel uncomfortable and unsure about how to properly interact with physically- or mentally-challenged people, so I just go with my gut and treat them with respect as I do other passengers, with maybe an extra smile thrown in for good measure.
Anyways, the train was pretty quiet as some people read and others closed their eyes and pretended to sleep while I, as usual, looked around scouting out fashion faux pas and anything that could be conceived as funny. As I surveyed the crowd, my eyes happened to steer in the direction of the young man in the wheelchair at the exact time that he began to yawn. That's when I saw the most amazing thing. As he yawned, he bought his bony, crooked arm up to his face and covered his mouth with his disfigured hand.
That simple, private, automatic reflect bought tears to my eyes. I mean if anyone could be excused from practicing good manners, it would be someone who finds it difficult or even painful to carry out such actions. Instead, here sat this considerate yet disregarded young man, possessing the grace and honor to display the basic manners most of us "healthy" people are too forgetful or lazy to exercise.
After that, the train stops at the next station. I saw him push some buttons on his chair and roll away, being careful not to bump into those rushing around him to exist or pushing towards him to board. As the train then folded out of the station, I watched him slowly ride down the platform then I closed my eyes and said a prayer for him. A prayer that he would be blessed, and find peace and happiness in his life and, of course, that the elevator at that station was in working order.