I met a frail old woman outside of her assisted living facility just a mile outside of Harvard Square the other day who asked, “Which way is Harvard Square?” I pointed.
“Oh, yes,” she said.
She struggled with boarding the bus, paying her fare, getting off at the right stop. “Can you take me to the Holyoke Center?” she asked the bus driver. Exactly, I thought. We should all expect the bus driver to drop us exactly where we need to go, even if it’s not quite on the route. “Oh, there it is!” she said as we passed a random apartment building. “Not quite,” I said. The bus driver confused her with directions. I tried to simplify.
Afraid she’d never make it to the Holyoke Center, I walked out of the T with her, wondering if I was aiding and abetting a flight from an assisted living facility—and kind of hoping I was.
I leave the house every morning with nary a thought about which direction to go, how far it is, which bus to take, where to get off. But this 1-mile trip for her was like dropping me off on a back road in Jakarta. Once we reached street level, she convinced me she knew where she was, so I watched her wander away into the masses of people rushing to work and school while she shuffled along at her own pace, no doubt remembering the day when she took this jaunt without giving it a second thought.