“There’s a staircase coming up,” a man says from a few feet ahead of me.
“I know, thanks,” I replied, assuming he was talking to me.
Why did I make this assumption, you ask. Because, having a cane means that, when people aren’t grabbing my arm to forcibly assist me, they’re shouting information to me. Why they assume I’ll realize they’re talking to me, I have no clue.
As with most instances, however, I knew where I was going. If I didn’t I would have asked. But, because I was heading into the subway, the staircase was my goal.
I stepped down, my cane extended and brushed someone’s feet. After a few seconds, I tried again but she still hadn’t moved, or maybe she was moving but slowly. Whatever the case, she did not seem to like the repeated probing of her feet by my cane and turned around angrily. How did I know she was angry? Because she whirled around with a shouted “Jesus Christ!”
I don’t remember what she said after that, but she was so riled up that she walked back up the stairs (quickly, I might add). But I was too busy being happy that I could walk down at my pace to really care what she was saying. People are always speaking at me. So as long as I made it downstairs and through the turnstile before the train came, I would be happy.”Miss.” Someone called out behind me, as I walked. I stopped and turned back. “You’re too close to the right.”
I shrugged and turned back around. I was constantly arguing with people about how close was too close to the edge. I wasn’t on the yellow warning strip, and I also did not want to trip over the feet of people sitting on the bench, so I was somewhere in the middle. I was comfortable, which is what really mattered isn’t it? People often tell me that it would make them more comfortable if I did this, or they’d feel better if I did that. That’s great for you, but I’m the one traveling. You’re only with me for these few moments.
“She needs to learn how to use that stick,” the woman from the stairs muttered to the man. “She nearly tripped me on the stairs.”
No, I don’t know how to use this “stick” that I’ve had with me since at least elementary school. (Well, not the same one, obviously, since I’ve grown considerably taller since kindergarten and have had… accidents, but you get the idea.) She is so right. Including the part where she called it a stick and not a cane.
So badly did I want to walk back and express any number of thoughts along those lines. But I didn’t, I let the anger, that was probably an overreaction go and waited for my train.
It’s annoying, more annoying than I realized when people talk about my abilities as a blind person. Telling me I need an aid, arguing over my ability to cross a street, attempting to drag me into the train without ever saying a word. With regard to the latter, yes, I realize what your doing, and I know it’s well-intentioned but would a simple “the train is this way” or “let me help you to the train” hurt? And if we’re speaking can you ask before tugging?
Not everyone does this, but, with that said, not enough people grasp that I’m OKAY. I know, you can’t fathom travelling while being blind. There’s often a sense of relief upon learning that I do have some usable vision, as if this makes my plight easier.
I value the vision I have, and sometimes wish it were better, not necessarily twenty/twenty but more than I have. But I also appreciate the information that each of my other senses offers me, and I might not have if I grew up with “perfect” vision.
I feel I write variations of these thoughts more often than I should. And I will probably continue to until there is a significant change in understanding and portrayal of blind people. Within my life time (only twenty and a half years) there’s been a lot of change. And hopefully I can be one of many who helps facilitate more.
People are often caught up in their own worlds and can’t seem to fathom what doesn’t fit; for example, being blind if they have full sight. Consequently, they don’t think to deal with a situation in a “normal” manner, their reactions often exaggerated.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet (1.5.167-8)