by:

Lately, I’ve felt like a hobbit in a world of texting giants. Let me explain. About two years ago, I participated in a documentary film called Among the Giants by a fantastic film maker named Cory Tomascoff. The film explored the challenges of being a smaller person trying to get around the busy streets of NYC.  The goal of the film was to show how important adaptive equipment can be.  For example, my wheelchair lamp makes it safer for me to travel any time of day. Recently, however, I’ve noticed another danger: how unfocused many pedestrians are as they text while they walk.

This past Thursday, I was just leaving work and waiting to cross the street to meet my Access-a-Ride van. I was waiting for the walk signal when, in a matter of seconds (probably milli-seconds), I got pummeled from behind. Someone fell over my wheelchair and crashed into the left side of my body. As with any shocking moment, I momentarily closed my eyes, and when I opened them I saw a man of medium-build getting up from the ground. He ran behind my wheelchair and began to apologize. “I didn’t even see you there,” he said (always a strange statement considering there is a three-foot pole protruding from my chair).  I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere. “You really have to pay more attention. There are many people on the sidewalk besides just you,” I said. I don’t think he liked my response. “Whatever, I said I was sorry,” he replied, and then pulled his cell phone out his left pocket and began texting while he crossed the street. By this time, I had missed the light, but that was the least of my worries. I needed to make sure I wasn’t hurt. I didn’t feel too much pain at first, but then I got a piercing sensation in my left knee. Please don’t let my knee be fractured, I prayed. I started thinking about my new job and how I’d hate to take time off just yet, not to mention how hard it would be to manage with a broken knee.

When I finally got settled on the van, I started stretching my leg. The pain became less sharp and my knee began to throb. I knew this meant that it was probably not a break, just some bad bruising.

I got home that night, and while I was lying in bed with my swollen knee, there was a NY1 segment about the dangers of texting and walking. The sentiment of most of the people they interviewed said it wasn’t dangerous at all.

The next day I noticed how much I maneuver around texting walkers. I truly believe that people are not texting and walking to hurt anyone intentionally; it’s just a habit of our busy lives. But I need to be as vigilant as I can when it comes to spreading the word. In the second it takes you to look down to respond to a text or to answer a call, you may seriously injure someone right in front of you.

Tamara Morgan is an art therapist and social worker in the South Bronx and a graduate of NYU’s Steinhardt School for Art Therapy. Diagnosed at birth with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that makes her bones abnormally fragile, Tamara writes about conquering NYC as an individual with a disability.

Print Friendly
  • Thomas

    Tamara, you write so clearly about a serious urban problem. Your well written essay lays it out, and I believe you are being too kind. People by nature, especially people with moblie devices, deem themselves and what they are doing to be the most important thing on earth at that moment. If you are healthy and can move quickly, they will challenge without looking up until the last split second when they shift like the character in the Dire Straits song, “Skateaway.” But if you are disabled, or you are elderly that little body shift they do is not enough. I love your essay, but think we need a few nuns in the street walking around with rulers smacking the texters in the head when they lose sense of place. Great job!

  • http://www.perrybrass.com Perry Brass

    Thank you for this marvelous piece—it really illuminates another aspect of living in New York which I always find important: the other side of New York. New York is not just supermodels, Donald Trumps, hot firemen, and cold cops. The city for this other side is also wondrous, but they have their own problems dealing with it. I loathe sidewalk cellphone strutters, not just because they are a hazard, and a nuisance, but because one of the things that most made New York the greatest city in the world was the interaction of the people who live in it: that is almost gone. Now you could be living in Atlanta or Seattle—you’d see the same schmucks there glued to their cell phones. The idea that the city has an environment that is fascinating, compelling, and dramatic—screw that, who cares . . . whatever. Perry Brass

  • Tamara

    Hi Perry and Thomas. Thank you both so much for your replies. The situation has definitely increased lately and is a bit annoying. I like your suggestion Thomas that would wake everyone up. Smiles and have a great day you two.

  • Jayne Ziegler

    Having walked on the streets of New York along side of you and knowing all too much about your condition I can appreciate the fear that must have surrounded this event!
    Thank goodness you are tough!
    It’s a shame that New Yorkers can’t seem to “stop and smell the roses”, be aware of their surroundings and share the amazing people, big and small that make up this crazy city!
    Texting is an issue both on the street and in cars. I believe the constant texting is changing humans brains and will only start to create more mindless fools!
    I wonder if they would see you if you were in a bubble or something crazy like Lady Gaga!
    Thanks for sharing your story with such beautiful writing!

  • Thomas Jefferson…

    You are too nice, I wouldn’t weave at all, I would put a “cow catcher”on the front of the chair and plow them out of the way.

    I find the mindless texters a blight on humanity and completely annoying.

  • Tamara

    Hi, Jayne. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I do agree if I were Lady Gaga people would notice me instantly.

    Hi, Thomas. I have received many suggestions over the years about such additions to my chair. While it may relieve some of my frustration. I would feel bad and I am pretty sure I would be in hot water for mowing someone over. But luckily I can day dream ;-)..