This is just what I think and only what I think. I am going to keep it easy and simple. Don't be surprised to see one post about food and the next about stuff. I don't categorize anything. I look forward to your comments and more importantly calls and e-mail.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Being blind can lead to very humorous situations. These situations can go two different ways sometimes for the same person. You can either take offense at what happened and be offended or angered by your existence as a person with a disability or find the humor that really exists in the situation. This entry will detail some of these humorous situations.

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with my husband. We had forgotten an item so as I waited in line he ran off to pick up the last thing. This often is very awkward because it's hard for me to tell where the cart in front of me is, first not to hit it and secondly to make sure no one sneaks in. This tale however tells of a goof up I made. I was standing at the front of the cart and had already spoken to the man pushing the cart in front so I had already gotten over that part of the awkwardness. While I was standing there I noticed a bunch of flowers brushing my arm. I thought "it's been a while since we've had flowers" so I thought I would check them out. I picked up a bunch and smell them and made a face. They were awful smelling flowers. Bitter and fertilizer like. I put them down again and look to see if there were any other bunches. So I felt around and I found paper towels, box of pens, something soft and squishy, and unverifiable box. That's when I realized this was not an impulse buy cart but a customer's cart I quickly stepped back in embarrassment. Strangely enough no one ever said anything. There I was standing in the grocery store checking out someone else's groceries and they're too embarrassed to say anything. Looking back on this I found it extremely amusing.

Later on a friend of ours came over for dinner. And I recounted the story to him. We then proceeded to laugh about the following stories. We've been friends for many years and many times he claims to forget that I'm blind. I find this one of the biggest compliments people can give me. This means that our relationship is not model or guided or interfered with by my blindness. His personality has always been very genuine honest and humor filled. I remember the first night we met he joined some other friends of ours and came over for Sunday night dinner. We found a great deal on scallops and prepared them with bacon . This was only the second or third time we had done this so we weren't quite sure how long to cook them for. This was a big treat for all of us. Our other friends who had brought him with them were appalled when after taking his first bite he said, “I think you might have cooked them too long.” Since Mike's back was turned he didn’t see their expressions. Instead he took a bite and promptly agreed. He was right and they were probably a little overdone. Our two friends however just couldn't believe that he had been so forthright to tell us. Where as Mike and I agreed with them and fix the next batch. This was a start to a good friendship

A year or two later I experimented at bringing together a variety of groups of my friends for a poker party. As John sat down at the table and picked up the deck of cards he turned to everyone and said they wait a minute these cards are marked. Our other friend was there again and was absolutely appalled. He could not believe that John had made fun of the Braille on the cards. The general response from the blind people around the table was "and that's why I'm going to win and you're not". John tends to relax around our blind friends the way we all want him to. He has no problem telling someone who's totally blind to move away from the TV or they'll wreck their eyes. That's just what his mother said to him and it becomes a even funnier when he says it to a blind person.

One other memory was wonderful. It was Thanksgiving dinner and we had all finished eating too much turkey like usual. One of the other couples that were there was a blind woman with her sighted husband. We all know each other quite well. Everyone knew who was blind and who wasn't and if a blind person in the group had prosthetics or not. We are a very close group of friends. One of the women with prosthetics was having a little problems with a possible eye infection. She asked the spouse of the other friend if he could look into her eyes and see how it looked. He very seriously walked over to her tilted her head up and down asked her to open and close her eye. He then proceeded to say it looks a little glassy, completely forgetting about the prosthetics. This caused the rest of us in the room to begin laughing . He had no idea what was so funny. As a kind individual he just tried to use a descriptor and had momentarily forgot that she had glass eyes.

If you search hard enough on the Internet you will find many funny stories about blindness. My favorite is one called Over There. This short essay talks about the many times the blind person gets sent to "over there" and how as blind people we've never been over there. When interacting with the able-bodied world we always use the same language. We are brought up using it we understand it is part of our culture. When a sighted person first approaches a blind person the awkwardness and discomfort tend to lead to weird situations. People are so used to pointing saying and look out. The tax themselves thinking that phrases such as this will offend us. We however don't even notice until they become awkward. Yes sometimes you'll find a blind person who doesn't like to be told to look out but sometimes you will find a sighted person who reacts the exact same way. Don't be ashamed of your language unless your language indicates that you are truly frightened and made uncomfortable by something that is perfectly normal. And just remember- your perception builds up your world.

Friday, April 9, 2010

now for another kind of access

As a blind person I am extremely reliant on public transit. At least until 2018 or so when self driving cars hit the market. Being so reliant makes me vulnerable to the lack of responsibility and access in public systems. The other day I left work somewhat later than usual. It was about 5:30 or so on Wednesday. I got on the bus at my usual stop and told the driver where I wanted off. The driver confirmed by repeating the name of the street. I said thank you and sat down. The driver did yell at me at this point because I was looking for my seat and blocking the aisle. I don't understand why AC transit is not like other transit agencies that post signs and keeps seats near the front of the vehicle available for disabled and elderly passengers. Every other transit system I have written on follows these rules. The Bay Area rapid transit San Francisco Muni system and sam trans in the South Bay. Even in other states I've always found that the seats are made available and Free. Back in Canada there are also signs posting what the penalty is if passengers don't yield the seats. But Alameda County and Contra Costa County transit does not follow this federal law. So instead I have to fend for myself and if I block the I'll it’s also my fault. This transit agency after promising it for many years added automatic stop announcements last year. Interestingly enough the announcements that they added only meet the minimum requirements. This means that only key stops get announced. The bus route I take has interesting choices for the key stops. So for example, the first two stops are announced and then there is a long stretch of road with about eight or nine stops in a straight line with each other they do not get announced. It's very easy to count turns and changes in direction but when all the stops are in a straight line and if the driver doesn't stop at each one there's no way to know where you are. Then there's a very significant turn that can be identified with two stops right after it being announced. Up until December there were then four more stops straight downhill that were not announced. In December I was able to request a change. my personal stop was added. My stop was the last one along one of the straight-aways before the next announcement. If I missed my stop then I would be dropped off four or five blocks downhill below where I should be. I understand that the law says only key stops must be announced but really knowing where you are relies on a lot more help than that. So to finish my story the ride went pretty much without incident until, my stop announcement was made. As I heard someone else pull the bell I stood up immediately and waited at the front door for my stop. I felt the bus stop at the stop sign and then keep on going right past my stop. As the bus accelerated past my stop I asked why he was not stopping at my street. He said no one pulled the bell so he didn't have to stop I was certain I had heard the bell. I also explained that I had told him where my stop was when I got on. He said "I don't care you need to pull the bell and that's all there is to it everyone tells me what stop they need and I can't be expected to remember any of them." Every time I have ridden the bus when the bell is pulled OR someone is standing at the front door the driver stops at the next stop. Also drivers always ask me where I'm going so that they can help me remember where to get off. Most drivers actually care that a blind person gets off at the right stop. Being told by a driver that he doesn't care and that it doesn't matter what I tell him infuriates me to no end. I'd like to think that I am usually polite but people like him make me want to scream. Even just writing this has got me angry again.