Could You Please Push the Elevator Button for Me?

Sunny blindsI was on the red line metro, two stops away from the Union Station, when I noticed a guy in an electric wheel chair in the middle of the car, facing the door.

There was a large thick straw like tube that forked at the end close to his face. He operated his wheel chair by alternatively putting one or the other end of the fork in his mouth.

He looked like he was in the 30s with neatly combed brown hair, parted on the left side. His face was cleanly shaved and he looked like he could just get up and walk away from that chair.

Had he been in an accident? I wondered.

I lowered my eyes when he turned his head and made eye contact with me.

When the metro braked at the Union Station, I decided to exit the train through a door further from me, just so I don’t have to go behind the wheelchair guy and stress him out to hurry. I joined the line of people heading for the escalator. I saw that he was also on the platform, a little bit to the side of the tide of all the bodies.

Suddenly, I heard a distinct voice and somehow I knew it was meant for me:

“Excuse me, could you please push the elevator button for me?”

I turned around.

The wheelchair guy was looking in my eyes and I stuttered:

“Oh…yeah…sure…the elevator…” I swiveled my head around searching because I never used the elevators before.

At that moment, another man approached:

“You need to use the elevator?” He looked at the wheelchair guy with a matter of fact approach. “Here, I am going too.” And he headed for the elevators.

I looked from one to another and took a few steps with them as if to show I wasn’t just going to bolt from my responsibility. The wheelchair guy turned his head and smiled a little. I nodded my head and watched him ride alongside the helpful man.

I waited until they were by the elevator and then I finally got on the now empty escalator.

By the time I finished that ride, I had tears coming down my cheeks.

Here I was freaking out about my upcoming eye cancer appointment in NYC and there he was, the guy who couldn’t even push the elevator button.

I tried to stop crying as to not arouse suspicions of the fellow travelers and mainly the station police but I couldn’t help it. I kept thinking about all the things the wheelchair guy couldn’t do on his own.

Swipe a tickly hair off his face. Caress a loved one. Write a letter. Unlock his own door. Get up from the couch or bed or chair whenever he wanted. Hug someone. Pick up and hold a child. Pet a dog. Feel the ocean water swirl around his ankles.

Wipe away his own tears.


  1. Tanya

    Eva, I just read your blog post. That was so powerful. I have tears in my eyes. I feel ashamed for bitching over being annoyed at my teenage sister, the hot weather, sweaty surgical tape, a cranky two year old…the list goes on and on. Thank you for sharing that.

    • Thank you. I still think about it every day. It was very humbling.

  2. Hi Eva! I am catching up reading the past posts. I loved this one. I am an emotional person and I can’t stop tears either. It’s kind of… uncontrollable. I believe that this things happen to bring us back to the present again. Thank you for sharing dear. 🙂

    • Thank you! In a way, I think that small experience helped me get through my eye appointment. Perspective…always makes a difference. 🙂

  3. In October of last year, my wife became a quadriplegic after a severe spinal cord injury. It has been am eye opening experience. For two months she could not speak and many around us (me included) could not lip-read. The frustration grows on both ends as there is a need to establish communication levels. I searched the web for techniques to follow in lip-reading and found the results were less than optimal.

    • I am really sorry to hear that. It must be so incredibly difficult for both of you. I hope you can find ways to communicate and some peace and comfort in your life ahead. I cannot even imagine being in your situation. Much luck and strength to you both!

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