It feels good to be a Norwalk resident, especially if one runs into neighbors and other familiar faces at one of the recently revamped Dunkin’ Donuts shops. Old friends and friendly strangers can spin tall tales over coffee and engage in debates over issues of the day (eg, the presidential election). The pleasant suburban scene could not have been envisioned centuries ago, when Ludlow and Partrick first independently purchased land from the Indians, and the name, Norwalk, was derived from the name of an Indian chieftain, Naramake (also spelled ‘Naramauke’ or ‘Norwauke’).
However, the past was not on the minds of most customers. For instance, the Haitian cab driver, pausing briefly for his cup of java before heading out for a night shift, had little interest in the question one could pose to Indians today to find out if they were better off than their ancestors. He was only interested in the present and the future. As the night shift loomed ahead, he was contemplating how many Norwalk bar flies would be calling upon his services to take them to their homes. How many fares would equal his economic survival for the next month? When talk inevitably drifted to the recent political conventions, he shrugged his shoulders. He was a first-generation American who did not mind that politicians did not court him in a similar manner as Latin immigrants. Instead, he was grateful that he could pay for food and shelter for his kids.
Tonight he celebrated another milestone in his life that, to him, felt every bit as momentous as the heroic accomplishments of ordinary Americans mentioned at the political conventions. He had chronicled his life story on yellow legal pads, while waiting at the interminable red lights dotted along Norwalk roads. These notes had finally been compiled into one book. Others, who left the coffee shop to stare at the book in his car, were quick to rain on his parade. No one would be interested in his story. No one would care. The cab driver would have none of this negativity. He had already lined up likeminded folks and would be barnstorming the local churches and community groups, preaching the gospel of self-reliance along the way. One felt humbled. Here was someone made stronger and not cowed by political rhetoric or adversity.
Back in the Dunkin’ Donuts shop, Mr. X, an adult approaching his golden years, was happy to sip coffee and chat to other customers about his problems. Mr. X is disabled. More precisely, he is a mentally disabled, non-institutionalized adult. Given the level of his disability, work was never an option. In the absence of a strong family or religious support system, he is also a poster child for entitlement usage or victim of any Medicaid cuts, depending on one’s point of view. It is worth noting that one analysis of 2010 census and budget data estimates that more than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households — not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work.
None of this mattered to Mr. X. He had just spent $15 on a broken Walkman. Someone had obviously taken advantage of him; however, his only complaint was that he could no longer listen to Michael Jackson. His late mother had left him cassettes of his favorite pop singer and somehow Thriller and Bad just did not sound the same unless he was using those cassettes. The political and economic travails of our country remained unsolved, but in an instant, another solution was born. Someone remembered a working portable cassette player at his house. Mr. X would soon have a tangible link to his late mother and Michael Jackson again.
Determination, perseverance, and kindness ruled in a franchise founded by the entrepreneur, William Rosenberg. Some people may crush these moments by pointing out the financial state of the franchise; however, there is only so much information that one can imbibe on a Sunday night. Sometimes one can only focus on what is in front of you and take care of the person next to you. Tomorrow is another day.