Tag Archives: Daily Life

Perception is Everything (When Helping The Blind)

This next story was assignment4 in my Fiction I workshop. We had to choose an event, and then write about it from three perspectives. It took me a little while to decide on my event, but once I remembered it, my fingers flew across the keyboard.

Let me know what you guys think. Who’s perspective you liked best.

***

Shayna Canaan 

“Danny, listen to me.” I have the urge to shake my phone in agitation like my mother used to do when I was a child. But there are two problems with that urge. The first, I was using Bluetooth headphones, so I would have to take my phone out of my pocket. Upon doing so, I would not receive the same level of satisfaction that my mother seemed to. An iPhone was not the same as a corded landline. And there was no base for me to slam it onto when I simply couldn’t take it any more. The second, I was in public and refused to be the crazy person everyone whispered about as they skirted around me. “I’m not trying to control you.”

“I never said that, Shay.” He says. “But you’re not being reasonable.”

“I just want what’s best for you.” I tell him, shading my eyes to better see the street sign in front of me. It’s a warm, sunny day in mid-March, but I’m still wearing my winter coat, open to enjoy the slight breeze. Lana had tried to talk me into something lighter, but I’m a seasoned New Yorker. I know when the sun goes down, the wind picks up and the temperature drops back to winter normal. I did let her talk me out of a hat, but I refused to leave my dark hair down. She said it made me look younger, but the high ponytail made me look my age. “I’m sure Janette’s a nice girl but her family… Your mother–”

“Is dead, Shayna,” he says, gently, as though soothing a child. It sounds as though he’s moving, and the suspicion is confirmed as I hear the clinking and tinkling of dishes and the roar of his dining hall quiet as he continues. “Lan and I are so grateful for everything you’ve done for us the past ten years. But–“ 

“Hang on!” I shout over multiple sirens as an ambulance and fire truck zoom past. I see a Nuts-4-Nuts stand at the next corner and think about buying a bag as I pass. The scent brings back memories of family trips from Long Island. Mother would never allow us to buy from dirty street vendors, but my sister and I still dreamed. “Go on, Danny.”

“Lan and I are so grateful for you taking us in after mom died. But you’re not actually our parent. And, I don’t think she’d care about Jan’s background, just the person she is now.”

His words hurt. I can almost feel a physical pain in my chest. I nearly stop in my tracks, in the middle of midtown foot traffic. But I refuse to be that person.

“Danny, I don’t know what to say.” I can feel the tears prickling behind my dark blue eyes. It was more than his mother, my sister’s passing that I was trying to compensate for. I say a quick prayer, hoping that everything goes well at my appointment today. Thirty-two was far too young to be worrying over wills and family legacies. “I’m just trying to honor her memory, and make sure her kids are okay. And that includes who you date. I want to make sure you both have good futures.”

“No.” He says. “It doesn’t. Advice, yes. And I hear you. But you’re not actually giving her a chance. Or me. You don’t trust my character judgement?”

“I do, Danny, of course I do it’s just–Wait, hold on!” I hurry the last few feet to the corner and wait impatiently for the light to change.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” I say. “But there’s a blind woman across the street. I think she needs help.” I watch her just barely avoid the City Bikes. I sigh in relief as she passes them. Then catch my breath when she narrowly misses a lamp post.

“What’s happening, is she okay?”

“I don’t think so.” I say as I rush across the street. “The sidewalk is cracked, and there are so many obstacles. Oh my God, someone almost walked into her! People are so careless. God, it must be terrible being blind. At least she’s well taken care of, her outfit–”

“It’s not always about money and looks, Shay.” he sighs.

“Wait!” I call out as the woman navigates around another crack. They should really fix up the sidewalks around here. I take her arm and walk her to smoother ground. “Are you okay? Do you know where you’re going?”

“Yeah.” She says, blinking cloudy blue eyes at me. “I’m fine.”

“Can I help you cross the street?” How can a stick be any protection? I’ve seen blind people run into poles. I wonder why this woman doesn’t have an aid. She seems pretty young, early twenties maybe. I wonder if there is an age requirement. But I remember the handicapped children at school having someone.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“No, bubelah, it’s no problem, let me help you.” Oy, she’s turning me into my mother in ways parenting mischievous twins from adolescents to adulthood never had.

“Shay, she said she’s fine.” I’d forgotten Danny was still on the line.

“I’ll cross you over then come back, it’s no problem.” She’s likely being modest. I wouldn’t want to be a burden on anyone. Yet I can’t imagine smiling through it all as she is.

I take her arm more firmly and begin to usher her across the street.

“How are you liking this weather?” I ask, noticing that her sleek green coat–is it from L L Bean, I’m certain I’ve seen it in the catalogue–is unzipped. 

“It’s nice,” she says, her face glowing a brown similar to one of Lana’s caramel Frappuccinoes in the sunlight. If she weren’t blind, she would be a better fit for Danny. I wonder if the Columbia boots she wears means she’s willing to spend for comfort. In her situation money must be important.

“Stay safe.” I tell her, once we make it to the other side. “And don’t be afraid to accept help. People want to help you.” I raise my voice near the end to ensure that she hears me as she walks away. She certainly walks fast. Someone should-

“Shayna, what was that?”

“I helped someone cross the street.” I say, making it back across just before the light changes. “You know I love helping people, animals, you name it. Like when that bird fell from the tree when you were kids?”

There’s a pause, then Danny says, “I have to head to class now. But please give Jan an actual chance at dinner.”

“I’ll try.” I tell him, my heart light enough to humor him. “Don’t study too hard.”

As we hang up, I murmur a prayer before walking into the hospital. Hopefully, I had earned extra goodwill points for my humanitarianism.

Madeleine Banks

“Hey J,” I said, grabbing my phone just before it stopped ringing. I’d just changed my ringtone and so still got more excited to sing it than answer. “What’s u—”

“What you doing this winter?”

“Um,” I said. “Working as an editorial assistant if Randomhouse has any sense?”

“No. Well, not just that.” She said, her voice moving with the motion of her footsteps that I could just barely hear. “You’re coming with me to St. Vincent for a week.”

“I am?” I asked, closing my laptop.

“Yes. I am so tired of this fucking city. And L.A. isn’t happening for at least another year, so I need a premove break.”

“Go to Jersey.” I said, changing into my current PJ’s—Bob’s Burger tee and sweats—before rolling into bed. So much for keeping the momentum going. I’d actually been excited to do my homework for once. But, clearly, the universe had other plans. I knew my friend, and that tone, this would probably take awhile. And, as I stretched out under my navy blue covers, I wasn’t complaining. At all.

“You’re not funny.”

“Bitch, I’m hilarious. But what happened? Which one of us monstrous New Yorker set you off now?”

“All of them!” She said, and I could imagine her throwing her slim, dark hands up in exasperation. “First, the supposedly homeless lady asking me to give her money, when I said I didn’t have any, she was like ‘how about food?’ When I reminded her that I didn’t have money, she was like ‘So how’d you buy that drink?’ I was like bitch–”

“Did you actually call her a bitch?”

“No. But I thought it really hard.”

I laughed. “Why are you skeptical about her being homeless?”

“Her coat had fur… And it looked real!”

“Maybe it was donated or something.”

“Maybe. Anyway, so she followed me down the block muttering about disrespectful kids (she was an old blond woman). Ugh, I get it you have a motorcycle.” She growled the last at the revving engine I could hear in her background. “Then, I’m walking past the dorm and I see that blind girl-”

“The one you asked about her eyelashes freshman year?”

“Yeah, she’s the only blind person in the dorm. Well, besides that short white guy.” At 5’10, short was a relative concept for Jessica Stephens. “Anyway, so she’s walking and, first of all, I tripped on a bike–you know, that City Bike shit–and almost dropped my cup. But she walked around it. What kind of sick joke? I’m sure God had a good laugh at that one.”

“Not just God.” I said, snickering into my pillow. It smelled strongly of my vanilla bean shampoo.

“So anyway, she was walking and this woman came up to her, she looked older so I didn’t think she was a friend, like a peer, but the way she grabbed her, I don’t know,” I can imagine her shrugging slender shoulders. “I thought she was at least an acquaintance. She just did it so smoothly I didn’t think about it.”

“She grabbed her?”

“I mean, she took her arm, grab might be exaggerating but she did yell ‘stop!’ or ‘wait!’ Or something like that.”

“And you thought she was her friend?” I shook my head deeper into my SpongeBob pillowcase. “Oh my God, did she try to rob her or something?”

“No, she looked too polished for that. She asked if she needed help and blind girl said she was fine. At first, I was like oh, that’s nice. You went about it in a weird way but how else would she’ve gotten her attention?”

“Maybe touch her arm like you did that day instead of grabbing her?”

“Yeah, I guess. But I don’t know if the grab was rough or gentle. Whatever she shouted was type aggressive though. But anyway, she kept asking if she needed help and the girl, well, I guess she’s not actually a girl but you know what I mean, she never actually agreed but all of a sudden the woman’s dragging her across the street. And when I say dragging, I mean it dragging. The blind girl looked so uncomfortable she put her phone away and I couldn’t really hear if the woman was talking to her, but I thought I saw her make a fist at some point. But the lady didn’t notice a thing. And at the end, she was shouting down the block about accepting help and she, blind girl, couldn’t get away fast enough.”

I wiggled an arm, that could be skinnier, out from under my blankets and grabbed my notebook from my bedside container. “Okay, start from the beginning but I need more details. First, what were you drinking?”

“A shake. But I’m not done. I thought it was such a nice gesture but then she went way too far. New Yorkers are just a bunch of pushy, belligerent sons of snitches. So, I just kept walking so I could walk my agitation off and called mommy. I wanted my aunt’s number to see if she was down for some company this winter.”

“Vanilla?”

“What?”

“Your shake, it was vanilla right? The purest flavor. Unlike ‘unnatural strawberry’ or ‘overbearing chocolate’?”

“Yeah, but—you going to make me another story?”

“Yes, so I need as many details as I can get. What was blind girl wearing?”

“I’m not here for your entertainment.” She sang, completely comfortable bursting into song in the middle of Manhattan.

“Every relationship has perks: you rant I get A’s. Okay, blind girl: I remember the long, supposedly natural eyelashes, and eyes like that dude from A Tell Tale Heart, but what was she wearing? Her hair? And the pushy broad, tell me about her? Accent, anything noteworthy? And which band shirt were you wearing today?”

“Jesus girl, slow down. She was wearing this long-ass green coat, jeans and dark boots. Her hair was in twists, I remember thinking how neat they were. And that I’ll have to stop her again sometime to ask what that coppery color in her hair is called. Oh! And her roots were showing. The woman was polished. I think she was wearing flats and dress pants, I don’t remember exactly, I just remember thinking money. And that I envy people with straight hair, her ponytail was so slick. You know how much gel I need to keep these edges under control? Don’t sigh at me, blind girl was more interesting. But auntie Cindy’s calling back, so I’ll call you tonight and we can brainstorm outfits for her.”

“Wait, shirt!”

“Five Finger Death Punch. I’ll send you a picture.”

I continued scribbling furiously as we said our goodbyes. Then I tucked my notebook under my pillow and rolled over to face my cerulean blue wall. I’ll sleep on it (I’d need an actual plot, some interesting dialogue) and get back to work in a bit. I should probably set an alarm, otherwise I might…

Lily Mordaunt

“We’re going to get on the 4 train right mommy?” A small voice asked from somewhere behind me. As with most young kids, the voice was ambiguous, but I was fairly sure it was a boy. A hint of bass perhaps, or just practice telling them apart? “Is there a 5 train too?”

“You know that, Johnny.” Ha! I was right. “We got on it this morning, remember?”

Their voices faded fast as I hurried to the bus stop, my cane sweeping in a steady arc before me. I remembered my own excitement and fascination with trains as a kid. The L was always my favorite as it’s the first letter of both my first and nicknames, but then I grew up and discovered what a pain that train could be. Ah, perception.

I turned my head to the right, to compensate for what I could not see on that side with my left eye, and moved over a few steps when the shape of the City Bike Rack came into focus. I hoped I’d put enough distance between myself and the tires as I both maneuvered a particularly deep crack and tried to anticipate which way the brightly dressed figure walking toward me would go. I wondered, not for the first time, if they would ever fix this section of sidewalk. But after four years of dorming here, it didn’t seem like it.

The hem of my calf length winter coat–open to appreciate the day’s warmth as New York City transitioned from winter to spring–brushed a tire. My poor coat–not quite warm enough for intense winter anymore but still too toasty for real spring, the feathers had shifted and the tear around the butt… I sighed. It lasted four years though. And I had to remember to shop in fall this time, for the discounts (and not midway through winter when the bathing suits were coming out). As it brushed another tire, I wondered if I should move a little further left, but the pole that had acquainted itself with my face freshman year was coming up. I might see it, or my cane might register it; knowing it was coming up helped. But I hadn’t stumbled on a tire yet, so I should be fine. Stuck between a pole and a… bike place. I chuckled quietly, hoping anyone watching didn’t think I was crazy.

Cars honked. Birds tittered. The wind blew. It smelled green. I sneezed. Allergy season. A woman passed me, heels clicking unevenly. From personal experience, I knew that those cracks were a bitch in heels. I hoped they weren’t stilettos. That wasn’t my type of heel, but I imagined it’d be even worse.

“New Tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Voiceover–a program designed for blind people to read all text on the screen–said from the earpiece that was almost always in my left ear.

I often felt that voiceover gave me an advantage over the average sighted. Yes, one ear was occupied, but I still had another. I also didn’t completely block out potential stimuli from the earpiece side, add to that what information I gleaned from my left eye and cane and I had it pretty good. Your Average Sighted Susie, however, would look down at her phone and then seemed to forget that her eyes were still necessary for navigation. And ears? What ears? Four other senses you say? We lived in such a visual world that someone might dismiss the smell of smoke if they didn’t visually see a fire before them. I can’t tell you how many times someone’s walked into me (you’d probably assume it’s the other way around but generally, it was pretty evenly split, because they were busy staring at a screen.)

“Wait!” Someone shouted, my cane breaking rhythm as she grabbed the arm that held it. My heart skipped a beat, and I clutched my phone tighter as it nearly flew from my hand. Is there construction? Was I about to face-plant into something? (That damn pole maybe, but I was pretty sure I’d passed it.) Was the universe having an ironic laugh at my expense?

“Are you okay?” The woman asked, clutching my elbow in a reverse of the proper sighted-guide technique. “Do you know where you’re going?”

It took a second for my brain to catch up with her words. And when it did, I was… annoyed. To put it mildly.

“Yah.” I replied, trying, unsuccessfully, to pull my arm from her grasp. “I’m fine. Thanks.”

“Can I help you cross the street?”

“I’m fine, thank you.” I hated how deeply engrained politeness seemed to be in my DNA. Especially since people only seemed to focus on the words, and not the clipped tone. And then, not even the words if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

“No, bubelah, it’s no problem, let me help you across,” she said as the traffic in front of us came to a standstill. I heard the bus to my right go from idling to motion. I turned my attention back to the woman as she pulled me across. She sounded too young to use words like bubelah. (I associated it with old Jewish women with Long Island accents.) “I’ll cross you over then come back, it’s no problem.”

Maybe not for you, I thought, putting my phone into my pocket, and switching cane hands. Her “good deed” wouldn’t keep me from tripping onto the sidewalk when I couldn’t use my cane fully and she didn’t warn me of the step. Then there’d be five minutes of apologies, perhaps an offer to take me to my destination, and I wasn’t down for any of it.

We walked at a snail’s pace. She said something about the weather. I mumbled a reply. We reached the opposite corner. She told me to stay safe in that special condescending tone reserved primarily for small children and pets, then patted my shoulder, her gesture a study in contrast: her pale hand making the dark of both our outer wear–mine, a dark teal and hers, what I thought was black–more noticeable.

I, successfully this time, disentangled myself and tried to decide if this would be a blog or vlog post. This was different from the usual: people just dragging me across the street, or demanding to know what stop I was getting off at on the train or bus so that they could “help” me. She stopped me. In motion. Not walking into anything, or looking around confusedly. I pulled out my phone–Nedy or Zu, sister or friends–whoever I chose to call, a rant was definitely in order as I prayed I wouldn’t be late to chorus.

My visual epiphany

As I lay here, contemplating life and things, I had a bit of an epiphany (about myself, not anything that would benefit the rest of the world, of course).

I have a few posts wherein I mention my dwindling vision, but, in the posts and real life, I’m always a little flippant about it.

“Yeah, my peripheral vision’s gotten really bad, and I can’t see the same distances anymore, but what do you think of the new Mayday Parade album?” (quick aside, it’s called Sunnyland, and I love it)

Yet, in contrast, when I talk about my eye doctor, I get frustrated because I don’t think he took my visual concerns seriously when I first brought them to him about two years ago. It felt as though he was saying that, because I didn’t read print, or actively rely on my vision for more obvious things, that it wasn’t as high a priority. But I use my vision for travel: Sometimes i’ll see the pole before my cane hits it, or if it misses it completely (though sometimes not), finding visual landmarks, seeing traffic lights at night, and differentiating between my darker, sad-looking 3 train and the well lit 2 at 14th street, when it’s too loud to hear announcements. To stare lovingly at all of the shades of blue I have in my wardrobe and, well, in my life in general. To admire the glow of brown of my hand in sunlight. To laugh at the person in the neon colored shirt (colors like that grab my eyeball and refuse to let go). To get angry when I can’t figure out if my pants are black or navy unless I have the two colors pressed side-by-side… Perhaps it seems insignificant, because I can’t, and never really could, examine all of the finer details of something. And if I am walking with other people, I rely on my cane and their vision. But all of that is still a part of my visual reality. Something that cannot necessarily be measured, or is not readily apparent to someone sighted. But is still quite real to me.

But anyway, it felt as though, because I don’t do more important sighted things, it was something we could hope was a side benefit of adjusting my medicine to help my eye pressure. Rather than actively working toward trying to preserve it. Vision lost from glaucoma can generally not be regained, and sometimes, no matter how many drops you use, you will lose it anyway. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

I already had losses in the past: I used to be able to read money with a bit o’ squinting, and I could consistently read the numbers on a cable box until about a year ago. But I adjusted. And I’m sure I will adjust again, but by being so flippant with the world, and even myself, I feel like I was disregarding the feelings of… frustration. And maybe not loss but… something like it (some English major I am, right?:)

What I came to realize today is that, I think that I think if I show how much the vision loss is bothering me, it feels like I’m contradicting everything I’ve said in my posts and videos over the years. Things like:

•Being blind (visually impaired, whatever) isn’t something that bothers me. Other than not being able to drive a car, I’m genuinely happy with things. I love reading braille. I love playing with all of this technology… so why is it a big deal that I’m losing vision? If I’m so happy with things, if I encourage my fully blind friends to do… whatever, then why does the thought of being fully blind make me panic?

I know it’s not from a fear of inability after blindness, but, I think, worry that I will eventually forget all of those things listed above. But knowing the reason behind my emotion, still seems like a… betrayal of everything I’ve put out there.

•I hate when people assume that I’ll jump on the first surgery that promises 20/20. I’ve only ever wished for the amount of vision I had as a kid. I still had to use a cane, but I never cared about that part. I just basked in what I could see.

This was when I read both large print and braille. My sister tried to have me keep going with my handwriting, and print reading, but my teachers wanted to focus more on braille. I wish I had continued working with her. But it felt useless if I wasn’t going to be using it in school. But I still loved those days, when I forgot to braille my spelling words, and my teacher would write them out in large print for me to study and copy over at home. Getting back the vision I had when I was younger, it’s something I can wrap my head around, not this nebulous idea of “perfect vision”/20/20. This is my reality, and a change in my vision that drastic would probably cause a lot more trouble and adjustment than most people think it will. I would have to re-learn so many things (for example, print), But also how to see with both eyes (since I could never see from the right one).

•Why is it okay to grab my arm in the street? I don’t care if you’re offering to help me cross—which you usually don’t do, actually, you just let me know your helping and assume I’m okay with it. Would you grab the little old lady and just start dragging her across the street? Or hop into someone’s car and just start steering because you know the route better than them? No. So why is it okay because I have a mobility cane and not a walking stick? Or Because my vision is less than yours? Do either of those things somehow negate my humanness?

Being unhappy about potentially becoming fully blind feels like I’m saying something is wrong with blind people. Like it’s something we should hide. Like it’s now okay for you to tell me that I’m going the wrong way because I passed the exit. But you, the all-knowing sighted, didn’t notice the entrance to my school off to the side. And now it’s amazing that I’m going to school. My family must be proud. Not because they have a member in college, but because they have a blind person in college. Do you stand at the entrances to the campus telling each student you’re proud they made it? No? Just little old me? What if I’m rich and my parents money could buy me into college, and the girl behind me is someone from a society where women are not allowed to get an education, and it really is amazing that they made it?

This isn’t to negate the struggles of some blind people. But you shouldn’t assume that every blind’s life is like walking on a bed of nails. Whereas you, privileged Sighted—not in the racial sense, but in the having working eyeballs sense—had it easy comparatively (because of those eyeballs).

It feels as though I’m betraying the nature of that last rant by being distraught about my own vision problems. I know I’m not, but it doesn’t change that I feel that way.

So I shrug it off, and then have a completely unexpected cry on a bench in Madison Square Park. It was a few weeks ago, I had taken off my sunglasses, and I forgot how long it takes my eyes to adjust from them, and I freaked out a bit at how much dimmer everything was.

I forget how much writing it all down helps me sort through it all.

Of course I could have talked to any number of friends about this—and I sort of have, but there’s always a lightness I take to the conversation that I don’t really mean to but, see above, but there’s something about just writing—I love writing—that truly helps to give me some perspective.

I’m naturally a little flippant about things—I’m usually genuinely unbothered by a lot—but that then makes it easy to transfer over that glibness to things I do care about, that make me uncomfortable.

  Well, as it’s now 5:13, I should probably try to get back to bed (I woke up 3 hours ago and haven’t been able to fall asleep).

Hope you enjoyed my rambles.

And check out my last vlog, a room tour, until I come back. Which will be sooner than last time.

I Love English

I love English.

Like, I adore all things words, and language, and etymology.

***

I’ve made many videos on my math problems at Hunter, and the uselessness of my accessibility office.

But to summarize (as it’s relevant to this post), I’ve taken the same (basic math 101 course) THREE times. Each time, I’ve had a different issue.

The first, a professor who didn’t know how to handle his blind student, and an accessibility office who wouldn’t provide me with braille. The homework was online, so my professor assigned me work from the book and I worked with a notetaker. However, we never had enough time for me to work, then her to scribe. So, consequently, not much studying and failed exams. And I requested a credit/no credit (so the F wouldn’t show up on my transcript).

The second, was a summer course. Yes, it would be intensive, but I would also be giving it my undivided attention.

Here, I worked on the online homework with a classmate. This proved a much more efficient method. However, my proctor was unfamiliar with the math symbols. Like, he didn’t know less than or greater than. And eventually I had to ask my professor for a cheat sheet for him. However, it didn’t prove affective. He still messed things up, and struggled to understand what I told him as he scribed for me. So, even though I received 100% on each homework, I failed each test with flying colors. Which means that I also failed the class. I tried appealing, but didn’t win, as I was still failing even after the proctor was given the sheet.

And finally, last spring semester. I found a classmate to assist me with the homework, and a proctor who knew math. My professor was also wonderfully understanding. So what could possibly go wrong, right?

Well, my classmate was failing math and I think something else, so we couldn’t work together anymore. Of course I’m not upset with her for having her issues, but it made things hard. I was having no additional practice on the work (so failed the next exam), and because we were half way through the semester, it was pretty much impossible to find another notetaker to work with. So I requested an incomplete. But was constantly locked out of the online course.

And both the math and accessibility offices kept sending me to the other and not addressing my issues. Which I’ve learned, from speaking to other visually impaired students is not unusual.

***

I wrote all of that to explain what’s happening with me in school. I took tons of psych credits that are now useless because I don’t have my core math credit, which would allow me to take the math pre-rec for the major. So I started working toward a major in English.

I’d never planned on focusing on English. It would either be a minor (along with religion) or a double major. But after taking my creative writing pre-rec and now currently in my History of English course, I realized that that was a mistake.

Psych is a big interest, one that I’ve been into since I was about eleven. But English is my passion. My love, if you will.

I realized that part of the reason I was so intent on having a career in psychology (with English on the side), was because of the general belief that majoring in English would not yield lucrative career prospects. And forget about music. But that’s what everyone told me. Yet, never the people who were closest to me (my godmother, sister, and friends). They were cool with whatever I pursued. But even in psychology, I heard about what I should do that would make me more money.

When the math trouble started, I began considering other majors and careers. Obviously, English was the runner up. I could become an editor. A knowledge of English would be important, as well as my bordering on unhealthy obsession with reading. And, as a vision teacher pointed out, creative writing is important. Most people think of people studying literature and only being able to become a teacher. But in just about any field, you need to know how to write.

Also, everyone has this image of the starving artist when they hear that’s someone’s a writer, artist or musician. But one can be a legal or magazine  writer, a book illustrator or web designer, and audio engineer or, well, I can’t think of something else. But you get the idea.

And though it’s going to suck graduating in five years instead of four (in addition to math, I’ve had problems with professors, and other accessibility issues), I’m really excited to be studying English.

It’s also disconcerting, I entered college with a plan, almost but not quite down to the classes I’d take. And now I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen after graduation. I don’t even know if I’m going to make it through math 101, and stats so that I can at least have a minor in psych. Will I pursue a masters next? And if so, in what? Clinical psychology? The hugely controversial MFA??

AAAAH! It’s hard. And now telling people that I’m majoring in English without launching into the whole sordid tale. But hey, I’ll definitely be able to study abroad with two years left to go. And I feel really good about this decision.

Now I should probably go back to my homework (ironically, for English). As I’ll be getting sleepy soon.

Stay tuned for another post later this week. I may be feeling good about my major, but my dating life is…😂 (here, just watch)

Kay, see you later👋🏾

A Seat At The Table: Together Yet Alone

There are four of us at this table, each eating lunch, all strangers to the other.  It started with one woman.  Who knows how many people sat down and coexisted with her until they were finished eating or had to get to class.  Then me:

“I found you a seat,” the cafeteria worker says.  “There’s another woman here, is that okay?”

I nod.  And, upon reaching the table, he asks the woman too if it’s alright that I sit.  She says nothing, so I assume she nods as the guy pulls out my seat.  He gets me a fork and napkin then asks my name, realizing that he’d assisted me on-and-off for over a year, but never knew how to address me.

“Lily,” I tell him.  “And yours?”

“Ernest.” Then we part.

As I sit there, eating and scrambling to finish a reading for class, another girl joins us, the only sound of entrance being the slight squeak of her chair.  Had she made some sign to the original table occupant?

As we each sit here, doing our own thing, and thinking our own thoughts, I am struck by how separate we all are though we’re mere feet a part.

The new girl speaks softly.  Oh, does she know the other one? But then I realize that she’s dictating, very likely to her phone.  Now she reads work aloud.  Perhaps an essay?

“Can I sit here,” a soft, slightly accented voice asks to my right.  I nod slightly.  But she doesn’t move.

“Oh yeah, sure.” I hear the shift in the second girl’s voice, from muffled to clear, as she lifts her head from her work.

I too look up and find the place before me empty.  Where had the first woman gone? How had I missed her departure?

That’s when it struck me.  It’s something I’ve always known, even discussed.  But as I sat there, it really sank in: we pass hundreds, even thousands of people each day; all of us in different stages of life, together but apart.  Coexisting.  So I start writing.  Continuing to live my separate life as I sit at a table with two strangers.  The three of us together, but mentally alone.

I scrape together the remaining scraps of my curry chicken and naan—there was Indian food in the cafeteria today—and eat while I begin to pack away my things.

“Excuse me, did you drop your phone? Something fell?” I turn back to the table.  It was the second girl.

“No, my phone’s in my pocket.” Then, after a pause.  “But do you know what fell?”

“Um, I think its a wallet.  I picked it up.”

I put my garbage down and hold out my hand.  She passes it to me.  It was the wallet part of my phone case.

“Thanks,” I breathe, the relief in my voice evident.  “That would not have been fun.”

“No it wouldn’t.” I think the words are sincere, but her tone feels dismissive.

“Thanks again.” If she responds I don’t hear, as I pick my garbage up and turn away.

At last, I’ve interacted, and while I appreciate still having my wallet, the exchange was so lackluster.  But I feel like that’s a common theme.  So many of us no longer care about the person before us, only the virtual one in our hands.  I’m no different, walking around constantly with an earpiece in my ear, making sure I catch every message as voiceover reads it to me.

I’ve lost some vision… but I’m still functioning

My vision has worsened.  I can no longer see the same distance, in front and it’s even worse peripherally.  I try not to dwell on it too much, but my interaction at the doctor’s today really brought it home.

“Okay,” my doctor says once he’s finished going through my information.  “Climb on up and we’ll take a look.”

I get up, but don’t see the bed.  Granted, almost everything in there was white, but I still, usually, have a better grasp of the room’s layout.

“Okay, where am I going?” I ask lightly.  Because I don’t want to walk into a cabinet or something.

He takes my arm (the opposite of the proper guiding technique, by the way) and shows me.  Then, as he probes my tummy he asks:

“Have you lost some vision?”

“Yeah.” My voice is more sullen than I intended.

“I can tell.  You were more functioning before.”

I was too busy lamenting the confirmation of vision loss to think about his phrasing.  But now that I am, I wonder.  I’m still functioning just the same.  My vision is worse, yes but not much about how I go about my daily life has changed.  In the past I would still sometimes double check that I was at the right end of the bed.  Or in a new hospital (or in any setting really) where I don’t know anything about the set-up, I would ask questions.Perhaps I’m just nitpicking but still…  I used to be more functioning? Just my eyes, doc.  Not me.

Being An Adult In The Pediatric Wing…

Attending the same hospital for your entire life can make visits as an adult—well, that’s what they tell me I am—awkward, to say the least.  Especially when it’s your final visit to your pediatrician.

“Look your girl,” my mom called loudly to someone standing outside.

“Oh my goodness,” the woman responded, halting her conversation mid-sentence.  “She’s gotten so big!”

As she touched my arm and asked about school, I mentally scrambled in search of a memory to fit the voice.  I found none.  According to my mom, she was one of the nurses who frequently tended to me as a child.

“What,” my mom’s voice was light as we entered the building a few moments later.  “They think you’ll stay small forever?”

I make a noncommittal sound of agreement, that I try to pass off as a laugh.  As per usual, her moods had been ping-ponging all morning.  But my emotions aren’t as mercurial, so while she was now feeling jovial, I was still suffering residual feelings of annoyance.  But she didn’t notice. She rarely does.

“Wow, look how big she’s gotten,” someone else exclaims once we reach our floor.  “And I see she has a stick now, does that mean she’s getting around by herself?”

I’ve always had a “stick” (it’s called a cane, actually) but when I go out with my mother, I’m told to keep it folded or not to take it at all.  Why do I need it if I’m walking with her? Now I carry it always (unless there’s an argument), but I didn’t before.  None of that I said aloud, however, as my mom was already answering.

“She lives on campus by herself.” I pulled out my phone as she says this, I knew where this conversation was going: praise at being able to live my life, compliments to my mother for letting me go, etc.  And they didn’t disappoint.

“This is her last appointment,” I hear.” Their voices still filter in despite my efforts.  “She’ll be twenty-one in a few weeks.”

“Twenty-one! Wow.  Well, you know, she can see a transition doctor and then they can help place her with an adult doctor.”

“I think she was planning to find a hospital close to campus. So it’s easier for her to manage.”

“Well some of our doctors work in pediatrics and adults, which might be better for her.  Sometimes the change can be traumatic to patients.”

“I think I’ll be fine.” I interjected.

“You can still bring her when she doesn’t have school.  Once a year.”

Yes, please continue to talk around me.  It’s not as though I’m the patient or anything.

***

The next time I have a say in matters is in my doctor’s office.  And everything’s going great until he asks where to send my prescription.  I’m slowly working on having everything being sent to the CVS near my dorm, but my mom was not happy about it.  Even though it’s always a hassle when I need my eye drops or a new inhaler.  It’s always so taxing on her (generally empty) schedule, that I figured I should just get it on my own.  Luckily, my doctor listened to me and sent everything where I told him.

The next blessing came in the form of the nurse who, though she was sticking me with a needle (so I automatically disliked her), asked about my hair dye and actually spoke to me.  Even laughing and joking about how much she also disliked needles when I put aside all of my frustration to squeeze my mother’s hand.

So the moral of the story? There was none, really.  Just wanted to complain about being an adult in the pediatric wing.  And the needles.  I really don’t like needles.

If I can’t walk, does that mean I can’t talk?

As we—my mom and I—sat on a bus this morning, on the way to the hospital (just for a check-up, nothing serious), I couldn’t help but overhear her phone conversations (she’s really loud).  But it worked out since the conversation I overheard gave me the subject for this post.

As I texted, I listened while she called a friend to tell him that some guy they used to hang out with was now in a wheel chair.  She felt sorry for him, first his wife died which he didn’t handle very well, and now this.  The chair.

“Poor thing,” she said.  I didn’t catch what caused him to be wheelchairbound but if it was a bad accident, then her pity made sense.  But it was the words she said next that lit the spark for this piece.  “He used to give such good conversation.”

…  why wouldn’t he anymore? Because he’s in a chair? How/why does that change anything?

It reminded me of the change some people go through when they switch from talking to the person I’m with to me.  As the parent of a blind child, I feel my mom should know better.  But then, as the parent of a visually impaired child, she doesn’t act much better with me.  So perhaps not.

Why do so many people seem to believe this, that disability overpowers all other faculties? Because it doesn’t. Or you shouldn’t assume it does before you’ve even interacted with the person.

No Amount of Good Energy Will Stop You From Face-Planting Into Some Construction

This happened on Tuesday, but I didn’t finish the post till now…:

 

My morning started as most of my mornings start, with me getting ready and then heading to work. And, as is also typical of these mornings…or any minute I’m outside, really, I encountered a number of overly helpful people.

First, we start with the guy from the train. As I walked to one of the many staircases in Grand Central, he called out to me, asking if I was alright.

“Yeah,” I answered. “I’m fine, just looking for the stairs.”

“Oh, well you’ve found it.” He said, Middle Eastern accent thick. “You’re doing great.”

“Thanks.” I always feel awkward responding to comments like that. Just like when people offer blessings. Thank you feels inadequate, or inappropriate. But I guess it’s an all purpose word.

“Yeah,” the guy continued. “You are doing wonderfully. You found the stairs.”

He said this from the bottom, as I was halfway up. I muttered another thanks and kept going.

At the top of the steps:

“You need help Miss?” Another guy asks. “You know where you’re going?”

I always wonder why people ask this while I’m in motion. They always make it sound as though I was just standing there, or walking around confusedly. People actually seem to just completely disregard me when either of those things are happening. Maybe there’s something about unsolicited assistance that warms a person’s heart.

But anyway, I told the man I was fine. He said okay but rushed ahead of me when he saw that I was exiting to open the door. (Not complaint about that part, I’m not that much of a knit picker)

The rest of my walk goes fairly well: one person trips over my cane, I stumble over a suitcase, someone offers to help me cross the street. All very usual. Until I get to 44 street. There I stop to adjust my shoe and a lady to my left offers assistance.

“If you can just tell me when I can cross,” I tell her. “That would be great.”

“Which way you headed after this?”

“I’m only going to 45.”

“Oh, that’s just one more block. And then are you going left or right?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“I’ll just help you out if your not going that far.” She says. “We can cross now, do you want to take my arm.”

I was so delighted that she didn’t’t just grab my hand and start crossing, or hold my arm. That’s the only excuse I have for what happened next.

“So where are you headed next?” She asks.

“I’m going left.” I was heading to a Starbucks that I only knew about in theory, so I figured if she really wanted to be helpful, well, I’d let her have it.

AS we walked, she told me about the amazing energy I had. She felt it standing beside me and just knew that she had to help this lady. What’s my sign? A Libra? Oh, we’re lovely people. She’s a Gemini. Our signs are compatible, she hoped that I had some Geminis in my life.

After we entered Starbucks, she wondered if I wanted her to wait with me. She could help me to work. She was on break from her own job and helping me was more important anyway.

What I appreciated about her was that, after discovering that I was interning, she asked what I was studying in school. She didn’t pity me, or even, as we walked, talk about my vision as a sad condition. I wasn’t patted on the back for navigating the big city all by my lonesome, or prayed for so that I would continue to stay strong. And, perhaps, most importantly, as we spoke, she didn’t take on that patronizing tone that some people use with me.

Her overhelpfullness in walking me all the way to my destination was a little odd, yes. But part of what goes into my complaints is how the person reacts to me. Besides, guiding me, she acted like I was just a normal stranger she’d met on the street (who happened to have this amazing energy). It also helped that her assisting me to the Starbucks didn’t actually put her completely out of her way.

It was a little odd when she offered to wait with me until I got my drink and then walk with me to work. But when I told her I was fine, she didn’t push, wished me a nice day, and left.

But of course the good energy could not last forever.

During my lunch break, I decided that I really wanted some pizza. My fellow intern saved me from using Siri to navigate by giving me instructions to a pizza place he’d passed on his way to work. The pizza place was actually a few stores down from the Starbucks I’d visited earlier.

After exiting the building and crossing the street, I found my face walking into some construction…. ow.

I appreciated that there were no pointy bits, just a series of horizontal bars. But I did hit my eye. Again, ow. But after rubbing my eye a bit, I kept it going.

After having walked past the Starbucks, slightly in pain, I found some strangers to ask for the exact location of the pizzeria.

“Um, is this the front of the line?” I ask the person nearest to me after entering the store. “Or, rather, the back. Where does the line end?”

Here is fine.” The stranger tells me.

I text and think about my eye for the next few moments until the guy tells me I can order. I move to the counter. No one says anything. The silence stretches, and then a few feet away, I hear the man at the counter asking someone else for their order.

I’m annoyed. So you won’t let me know your there but you’ll move onto and talk to the next guy?

“Are you going to order?” I’m asked finally.

“Yeah,” I say. “Can I have a veggie slice?”

“We have steamed vegetables, is that all you want?”

“Well, a veggie slice with pepperoni.”

“We chicken.” He says. “And rice.”

“Um,” I feel less frustrated now and more confused. “I mean a veggie pizza slice.”

Oh!” He says. “The pizza counter is over there.”

“Where?”

“On the other side of the store.”

“Is that to my left or right?”

“Nevermind. Don’t worry about it.” And he moves around the counter and calls out to another guy that I want a veggie pizza slice.

Evidently, the counter was directly behind me. I continue to wait there though, because the first guy tells me that pizza guy will bring it to me. But as I wait, multiple people  ask if I need help. Even another employee.

“You need help, Miss?” The employee asks.

“No, I’mfine.”

“You know where you are? (insert restaurant name)”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

But as I say that, the first guy tells her that I’ve already ordered.

Why do people think I don’t know where I am? Give me some credit. Blind ≠ clueless.

Eventually, I’m given my pizza and brought to the right counter.

The slice was tasty, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll return. Maybe I should go back on a day of normal energy levels, and when my eyeball (the one that I can see out of, by the way) isn’t gently throbbing.

Shopping With A Blind Female Attitude

Hey guys,

So this post is one I asked my friend Milica to write. It’s an expansion on an angry text she sent me on Monday after shopping with her mom and cousin. It’s long but, especially for either parents of visually impaired children, or just people who don’t really know how to treat the blind, you might want to give it a read.

Or if your just a fellow VIP looking to commiserate over the Sighteds and their unknowingly condescending ways, read on.

***

I got my period today, and yes that is relevant, or rather, my cramps are relevant to this story.

I told my mom, at some point today, that I’d like to go clothes shopping. I hadn’t specified exactly when, but thought she understood that today wouldn’t be the best time. The  idea  of clothes shopping was exhausting, and with the added aches and pains,  I knew it would be miserable for everyone involved. I’d only mentioned it because I’d been mentally going through my closet and realized it needed some new additions.

It seems she didn’t’ get the memo though, because later tonight, she tells me we’re going out. I didn’t really wanna go cause I’d already had two pills today and they didn’t help much. But I went anyway. And, as expected, I was miserable.

We went from store to store, and they were all cluttered with clothes, as clothing stores get. The lights were also painfully bright for my eyes (I  had forgotten my special light filtering sunglasses). And, of course, the cramps. Those ever present, attention seeking, evil cramps. So like I said, I was miserable. I didn’t mean to be. But I just couldn’t be enthusiastic about even the things I liked because hormones.

So basically, the whole shopping part of the evening consisted of my mom and cousin looking for stuff and asking me if I liked  it and me telling them to go ahead and buy it if they thought it was good because I couldn’t care either way. I was following behind them lifelessly and mostly relying on sighted guide—the technique used to guide blind people—as I didn’t’ have the energy or willpower to use my vision.

When we’re finally finished, my mom goes to the bathroom and my cousin, Sofija and I make our way over to one of the mall’s cafes. As we’re sitting there, waiting for my mom and eating our cakes, one of the cleaning ladies comes over to us.

“Prijatno,” she starts, using the Montenegrin equivalent of bon appétit. “Is it delicious? Is she your sister?”

I was sitting by the edge closer to her, and Sofija was sitting by the window on my other side. But of course she wasn’t talking to the blind girl. Still I answered anyway:

“yes we are sisters.” (cousin and sister can be used interchangeably in Montenegrin.) She hadn’t given us time to answer about the cakes.

Sadly, when I answered, so did Sofija. I’d forgotten to train her to direct people talking to her about me to talk to me instead.

As the lady continues talking to us,  asking little questions about us, she uses this “poor blind girl tone” that a lot of people use with and around me. And by the time she’s gone, Sofija is completely weirded out.

“Yes,” I tell her. “This is why I get frustrated with people on a daily basis. And you think I’m crazy.”

As great a relationship as  I have with her, she is one of the people in my life who constantly tells me that I’m too mean to the nice people who wish me well.. Even though I, not she,  am the one living my life and getting overly eager helpful souls  forcing assistance and  their feelings about my disability onto me in the most ordinary situations. So her shocked reaction made the woman’s condescending approach a little more bearable. At least Sofija was finally getting it. And while this would be a great, happy place to stop, my story doesn’t end there. My mom comes back, and that’s where everything gets crazy, and infuriating, and just… grrrrrrr!!!!

Sofija and I tell her what happened, and she tells us that the woman had also approached and talked to her.

“She has 2 blind girls and one doesn’t even want to  go outside because  she is sensitive to light. She was in an accident.” The lady went on to say  that she saw me being miserable and robotic when we were shopping earlier, (because of cramps but she doesn’t know that), and she tells my mom: “I see she doesn’t want you to buy her anything, but you should always buy her things”. As my mom told us the story, she imitated the woman’s “love your daughter even though she’s like this” tone. And when she’s finished telling us about the lady’s troubles, she comments, “you know, poor woman, she’s working for practically nothing as a cleaning lady and those children don’t have any opportunities”—and so on—”so she doesn’t know any better.”

No,, I am not a completely heartless human being. I understand that people have struggles. But I still can’t accept that you’re a mother of 2 blind kids, no matter how uneducated or poor you are. You should still be able to realize that you disable your children more with your attitude.

Next, my mom calls her over to talk some more, and she tells us about how much her daughters don’t want to go out.

I really wanted to say something, but I had a strong suspicion that no matter what I said, all she’d think was “aww, poor, thing, she speaks, so cute.”

But it must be in my DNA or something to fight for my causes, because I speak up anyway and ask if she had tried glasses.

“oh sweetie, she’s too ashamed. Bless you.” And then she puts  her hand on my face… to pet me!

I instinctively pulled back, and asked her to please not do that.

My mom and Sofija tried to explain that her touching  me was just an endearment in Montenegrin  culture. But I guess I’m an alien in both Montenegro, where I’m from, and the United States, where i’ve been studying for about nine years. I say that because it seems like I’ve picked up the American custom of not wanting to be touched endearingly by strangers. Although, interestingly,, even Americans seem to completely disregard their own habits when interacting with visually impaired people. Does everyone suddenly become European when they talk to blind people then? Cool.😂

As soon as Sofija  heard that the woman was a cleaning lady with 2 blind kids at home, she betrayed me, suddenly becoming fine   with the woman’s  behavior. I thought she had finally started to understand. But I suppose I will need a few more encounters to happen around her for her to truly get it.

We tried, through a few more exchanges, to get the woman  to start encouraging  her daughter, but quickly realized that it  wasn’t  going to go anywhere in that short a time. So we asked her a few more questions about her daughters, like how old they were and things like that. And after a bit more small talk, she  said that she was glad to have met us and went back to her life.

The entire time after that was spent with them trying to get me to sympathize by explaining her probable situation. They told me how rude I was for pulling away, instead of letting her touch me.

And I was annoyed about the fact that  she saw me looking like a  lifeless thing being dragged around the mall. I try so hard to be seen as a person first, and blind person second. But not only was I using sighted guide (and barely even caring about the information I got from my cane), I was also acting… not normal. And that just continues the image she probably has about helpless blind people. And because of how I let myself be portrayed, she refused to take me seriously. To care about my advice as if I were another human being, and not this blind creature who deserves pity.

I had these crazy thoughts of just going back up to her and  shouting everything at her in frustration and explaining myself, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. She caught me on a bad day, but even if she hadn’t, I doubt it would have changed much. Just seeing a girl walk around a mall wouldn’t be enough to help her learn something that people, especially parents of visually impaired children, take years, various resources, and supportive specialists working with the family to learn.

We returned home  with my mood improved only slightly. I knew that they, my mom and Sofija, didn’t deserve my attitude, but they also couldn’t understand me either.

So, I opted for writing this here instead.

I guess the main idea of the story here is that I can’t make everyone understand and that there are multiple points of view to every story. It is  also extremely unfortunate that Montenegro as a country that doesn’t have the resources to properly help and teach families about how to do the best they can for their disabled child. As a result, many kids aren’t even sent to school and don’t get to live out their life anywhere near to their full potential.

I have other blind friends from Montenegro who have more or less grown up into functional adults,. Though, that could only happen  because their parents either had the resources to learn from what is done in other countries, or had the willpower, motivation, and determination to challenge their kids.  By doing this, these parents  allowed  their kids to explore their childhood and even get hurt—just like sighted kids—in the process so that they can learn to be independent and learn to get used to living normally with their condition.

I feel that, since sighted people view living without vision as incredibly frightening, they overprotect their children in order to make something they view as terrifying more bearable for themselves, and convince themselves that it’s what’s best for their kids. But what, sadly, doesn’t occur to these parents  is that because so much of a child’s learning happens through  visually observing others, by overprotecting them, they are essentially denying their cognitively normal functioning children a chance to learn about the world around them. It would be absurd, to a sighted parent to let their blind child explore the world around them with the other four, presumably finely working, senses. It’s too dangerous. And since the parent is afraid,  their child must be too. Or the parent’s fear molds the child into a helpless, nervous, creature instead of the strong individual they could be.

Sometimes, I realize, blind kids are born with additional disabilities. But if you’re kid’s only impairment is his or her vision, don’t limit them because you can’t fathom living like that. You’re not. Your kid is. What’s going to come of them if something happens to you? Should they rely on other people to take care of them their whole lives? You wouldn’t allow that of your sighted child, would you?

So, I understand what my mom and cousin meant when  they said that people who don’t have a lot of opportunities are more likely to treat their disabled child in the way the woman treated me. It makes me sad, it really does. But I get it, or try to. But with that said, I still firmly believe that everyone has the potential to make their own conclusions. Even if they don’t have the resources to provide their kids with screen reader enabled technology or lessons in life skills from a certified professional, they can make their own observations and conclusions about what their own child can do without giving into despair, and setting the bar too low instead of too high. Even if a child doesn’t end up getting an academic education, through acceptance and willingness to communicate, I believe it is possible to at least fully integrate the child into the lifestyle of the family, even if that simply means expecting them to do chores and speaking to them in a way a parent might speak to a child without a disability. And not like a cherished pet.

I hope that by sharing my experience, I have helped you understand why this kind of treatment, no matter who  it comes from, mostly only does one thing, and that is  to lower someone to a level that is less than human.

So, with that I encourage you to, as Lily has undoubtedly said many times, think about how your actions, good-intentioned though they may be, might come off to someone who likely already has a grasp on living with a disability. And if you are wondering about how in the world we blindies get by in the world, well,  feel free to explore the rest of the blog and the accompanying youtube channel.

PS. If you or someone you know is a parent of a blind or visually impaired child and don’t know where to start. this is a good starting point with some basic information. If that’s the case then good luck, stay strong, and believe in yourself and the  child..

***

If you enjoyed Milly’s post, check her out on Twitter here. She Tweets as the mood strikes her, which means you can expect anything from Youtube likes and her thoughts on anime characters, to college struggles and #BlindPeopleProblems.

Just another rant… sort of

“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)