I was on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Friday, crossing Broadway at 79th Street to get to the uptown No. 1 subway.
Three-quarters of the way across the street, I saw this elderly but spry blind man in front of me about to walk into a trash can, though his white cane probably would have forewarned him of the obstacle.
I'm in the habit of asking vision-impaired people if I can help them across the street before I do anything as presumptuous as taking their arm.
This case was no different.
"May I help you cross the street?" I asked.
"There are 14 goddamned steps across Broadway," the man said in an angry voice loud enough to catch the attention of people within a 30-foot radius. For all they knew, I was trying to pick his pocket, such was his reaction.
"I'm just trying to be friendly," I said. "I didn't mean any harm."
He said a bunch of other stuff I can't remember, called me a moron and repeated that "there are 14 goddamned steps across Broadway."
"How the hell are you going to help me?" he said as we reached the opposite sidewalk.
By this time, there must've been about 15 or more people witness to all this, staring at me as if I had accosted the man.
"Hey, sorry, I'm just trying to be helpful," I said, not raising my voice. "Have a nice day."
"Next time don't be so goddamn insincere," he shouted at my back, which by this time I had turned on him.
To get to my car, I had to cross 95th Street, which is about as wide as Broadway is at 79th.
The man was absolutely right: It took me exactly14 steps.