Blog

Jeffrey Byrnes Photographer Fashion + Portraits + Travel

Boston: A Story and non-physical photograph.

I am going to show you a photograph without physically showing you an image. Rather, I am going to give you a mental image, an image that will undoubtedly resonate with you on an emotional level. To my left sat a man. He is very old and feeble. A security officer escorted him to his seat. He has traveled by bus to the south station in Boston. Alone and with a bag of McDonalds, he took his seat and sat next to us. The first thing I noticed when he walked up was his shoes. They were similar to my own, but more worn in. What was striking about them was that they were on opposite feet, as if he couldn’t tell which one went onto which foot when he put them on. I looked up and noticed immediately that he is blind. That was a clear indication as to why his shoes were on the wrong feet and why he needed assistance in finding a place to sit. He sat next to us eating his hamburgers and drinking his milk. I looked over a dozen or so times and without making a photograph I recorded the image in my mind. As if from some form of non physical sight, he knew I had been studying him. He turned and politely said excuse me. “Can you help me to the McDonalds so I can get two hamburgers and two milks?”

“Yes, yes of course I can.”

I stood up and took a long step over and extended my arm out. With a tiring effort he met my arm with a firm grip. In a few second he was up on his feet and clenching my right arm with two hands. My pace was little bit faster than his, almost as if I was dragging him. I slowed to match his ever so cautious steps. The McDonalds was only a couple dozen feet from where we sat. On the way over I asked him where he was from.

“Boston. I am blind and I cant see.”

“I am traveling with a visual impaired friend.”

He laughed a short laugh and took it as a sign of irony. I asked him how long he had lived in boston, his was response was, forever.

“I am 84 years old. I am originally from Newton. Do you know Newton?”

“Yes, I am some what familiar.”

Once the cashier handed us his food, we made our way back to a seat. A girl passed us with a quick pace. I thought to myself, how does this look? Do the people passing thing I am helping a friend, relative, a bum, or something else? I didn’t care and dismissed questions. I led him to the bench and helped him take a seat.

“Here is your food.”

“Thank you, thank you,” he said as he fumbled with the bag.

After I sat down, Kris looked over with a grin.

“Shush, there is nothing funny about that.”

“I know. Did you tell him youre with someone who is blind.”

“Yea.”

“What did he say.”

“He kind of giggled a light laugh as if it was some kind of irony.”

“Well it is. Imagine if he asked me, it would be the blind leading the blind.”

I laughed.

“I used that in class last week. Well, either way you’re his guardian angle today.”

I sat back and looked over at where he was sitting. He was eating his food with a quick pace, again taking each bite as if it was his last, savoring every taste and every bite. I felt a sense of happiness that I was able to help him. A man I did not know genuinely needed my help. Without hesitation I put my hand out and led him to what he needed. It could be days before he has another meal, but at least for the moment he is full. If not for the mental image I have constructed for you, take away this, you never know when you will need someone else to help or assist you. Do not be afraid to guide someone when they need it. We are no better than the people that surround us.

As I was typing this out, Kris interrupted me to get my attention.

“What is he doing!?” Kris inquisitively proclaimed.

Looking over I saw a fountain erupting from the front of the mans pants. His left hand was in his jacket pocket and extended forward, as if to shield himself from what he was doing. Looking up at Kris, I said, “You know what he is doing!”

There stood the same man that had the nerve to ask me to help him get food but didn’t have it in him to ask for a guiding hand to the mens room, stood urinating on the floor, a mere two feet away from the edge of a balcony that over-looked the rest of the terminal. It was just as sad a sight as seeing his shoes on backwards, but this picture gave me a less sympathetic feeling, as he could have asked for some assistance.

On our way out of the station I saw a security guard that was a few seconds shy of putting the drunk that was swinging and delivering fuck yous and that I am a former boxer down on his ass and in cuffs. I stopped and told him what the blind man had just done. I didn’t want someone to slip and fall in a puddle of piss. I directed his vision to where the man sat and told him it was right there that he relieved himself. As kris and I exited the station and into the city the wind, rain, and snow mix hit us with as much shock as the man that just emptied his bladder in front of us. I looked over and Kris said, “Imagine if he dropped trow and took a dump right there in front of us, now that would have been nice.”

“He might as well have..”

The walk back to the car was longer than usual. My left shoe was filled with snow and rain. These shoes are on their way into the trash after tonight, I thought to myself. Getting back to the car we were given one last surprise on this crappy night. A parking ticket. The handicap pass had fallen to the floor and was unable to be seen by the meter maid. “Great!” Kris announced. “One more thing to top the night off. Class was cancelled. The weather sucks and now a parking ticket to deal with next week when we get back in.” We thought that our night of misery was ending there, but we still had the ride home.

Entering the pike was not a problem, there was not much traffic, that is until we came to the first rest stop. There were dozens of tractor trailer trucks in the rest stop.

“I wonder if there is a ban on the trucks being on the roads.” Kris said.

“One might think with the speed limit being reduced to 40 and signs every other foot telling us to slow to 40.”

A few moments later we were down the road from the first rest stop. The combination of freezing rain, snow, and the 32 degrees that was blinking on the climate setting on the Lexus Navigation created an uncomfortable feeling under the car. We were not slipping at all. The new tires and the traction control prevented a great deal of slippage. The problem was the accumulation was thickening and at any time it could go from a nice comforting ride, sitting on heated leather seats to a blizzard of crunching metal and concrete barriers. Accidents happen fast. Without warning and being in New England on the night of the first snow is like being in bumper cars. It happens every year, the first snow falls and every idiot driver in New England goes out and drives as fast as they can and looks for shit to hit. I had already heard of two over turned cars in Western Ma, a mere 5-6 miles apart. A big rig and an SUV decided it was their time to become a statistic.

I looked into the rear view mirror. I thought I just saw head lights flash us. I looked back in front of me and watched as the snow flakes came rushing towards the window. The headlights provided this surreal view of each flake coming towards us. The reflection of light off the snow made it look like we were heading into space with meteors and such heading towards us. I saw a flash and looked back. This time I watched as the headlights flashed. A very large truck was approaching us. Very fast. Signaling for us to move out of his way. I had no where to go and there was absolutely no need for him to be approaching us at that speed. I turned my attention to the dashboard. The speed read 45. I was 5 mph over what the signs were blinking at us to be. He was easily going 55-65 to be gaining on us so quickly. Seeing that I wasnt going to move, he cut a hard right and moved into the slow lane. Passing us at a quicker than I thought pace, he let his horn be heard and moved closer towards us. Kris let out a few choice words. I joined in with my frustration and choice words. We sang a song of anger and swears, not that he could hear us, but I am sure he was doing the same. There was no reason for his driving to be so reckless and dangerous.

In a matter of minutes we were in traffic. I could see three plows ahead of us. They consumed all three lanes and were being tailed by an emergency personnel truck. Just behind the plow sat our new road rage friend, the truck. I snickered and made a comment about irony this and irony that. For the next 45 minutes we coasted along breaking fast and hard for idiots and tailed the plows. What was most annoying was that the sand, salt, and plowing was not clearing the black top. It was so cold that it was freezing right over. The tires crunched over the snowy mix the same as they had 45 miles back. Some where between 12:30 and 2.5 hours later we were exiting the pike in Chicopee. It was a longer than desired commute. Boston 2 us 0. We didn’t have the best of nights. We will do it again next week and hopefully we will be the ones taking score.

Here is an image, unrelated to the above story. I shot this with my phone, of course, but because I made the conscious decision to leave my camera at home. I spent so much time in Boston, and because I have been so busy, I didn't want to add more photos to edit and worry about to my large list of work that needs to be wrapped up in the next week. Plus, at the very least, my Wednesday in Boston was a mental health day.