Tag Archives: Directions

Seriously, Ask The Blind Person… It’s Okay

This was originally posted on February 22, 2016 at 9:00 PM on Blogger.

***

On Saturday, I was going to hang out with some friends after music school.  But I’d arrived at our meeting point earlier than the other two (it took them an HOUR to get there), so I was just hanging around at the station.

I stood, leaning coolly against the side of the staircase, with my cane tucked beneath my left arm and my phone in my right hand.  I was also staring, listlessly, at the yellow warning strip through my lashes (I was really excited when I figured out what that phrase meant).

I was approaching the half hour mark when a woman came up to me.

“Um, excuse me?”

I look around.  The three trains that come to that stop had all recently come and gone so there were very few people at the station.

“Yeah?” I asked, a little hesitant in case she wasn’t speaking to me.

“Yeah, um…” I stopped squinting and turned more fully toward her.  “Oh! I—I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I say, though what I should have said was “for what”.  “What was your question?”

“Oh.” She says.  “I, um, was just, um, wondering how I get to the to Flatbush.” Involuntarily, I raise my eyebrows a little.  As I’m getting ready to tell her I’m not sure how to get there from the station, she clarifies.  “The um Flatbush train.”

“The 2 train,” I ask.  “The Flatbush Avenuebound two?”

“Yes!”  she says.

“Oh,” I say, turning slightly and gesturing down the stairs.  “Just go down, around, then back up.”

“Oh okay.” I hear that hint of surprise and trepidation that colors her tone as she heads down the stairs.  “Thanks.”

“Sure.”

While I realize that this is similar to my other post, wherein I discuss the benefits of asking a blind or visually impaired person for assistance, in that story, I had no idea how to direct the girl, and this time I did.

We really are good people to ask for direction.  More oft than not, we make it a point of knowing exact locations, or we at least have landmarks to look out for (after you pass the garbage, you’re at the right room).  Sometimes I don’t know exactly how many buildings from the corner my destination is, but once I know how to get to the right block, I have no qualms asking questions (or using the map on my phone).  But I can at least point people in the right direction.

Now, I know some Sighteds who give great directions.  They’re really attentive to/aware of their surroundings, they can even give exact direction when exiting train stations (all of that was about my sister, by the way).  But I also know people who can’t even get out whether or not to go right or left while they’re watching you do it (that’s for my other sister, love you!).

But don’t be afraid to ask.  Or, if the blind person offers information, don’t ignore it.

There was another time, a few months ago, as I was waiting to cross a street, I heard a group of women arguing behind me.

“I’m pretty sure it’s that way,” one said.

“Avenue of the Americas? No, I think it might be this way.”

“You’re looking for Sixth Avenue?” I ask, turning slightly toward them.

“No,” one of them said, in a slightly condescending tone.  “We’re looking for Avenue of the Americas.”

“Yeah, Sixth Avenue,” I said, I have sort of elitist tendencies (sometimes) so I matched her tone quite nicely as I pointed them in the right direction.

“Oh, well, thank you,” one of the other said as they headed where I pointed.

For any of my readers not in New York City, I think it is officially called Avenue of the Americas, but (usually) only tourists call it that.  We generally just say Sixth Avenue.

So, in an instance like that, if they’d asked me for a specific address, I couldn’t have helped, but I got them going in the right direction.

Blind (and visually impaired) folk, we’re people too.

I plan for my next post to be the mending of one of many misconceptions about us blind folk. But that may be subject to change if anything particularly noteworthy happens to me. Or you’ll just get two posts.

Well, till next time

Mata ne

(Japanese for goodbye/see you)

Da Saster

This was originally posted on February 21, 2016 at 5:20 PM on Blogger.

***

So, a few months ago, after I’d finished my final lesson of the day at music school, one of my friends, Milica (pronounced as Melissa) asked if I would go with her to an art store (she needed charcoal pencils).  I said sure, I had nothing to do.  And the last time she’d wanted me to go somewhere with her, it was freezing, raining, and I wasn’t appropriately attired.

So, upon asking Siri where the nearest art store was, and checking maps, the two of us set off: it was just us, the crisp fall day and our canes.

As we walked and crossed streets, we chatted: about life, our friends, and whatever else came to mind.  We were, of course, accosted by overly helpful citizens, but that’s nothing new.  And as Milica grew frustrated, I stayed calm and pleasant (it’s like we were playing good cop bad cop).

This won’t make sense to someone not from New York, but to give you some background, we started on 59th street, and were heading to 60th, between Park and Madison.  Upon reaching the corner of 60th and Madison, and Milica not having seen the art store (her vision is better than mine), we decided to ask for some assistance.  Each person we asked seemed not to know what we were talking about and so we kindly, but firmly dismissed them.  Until the officer came along.  He was friendly and wanted to help, but he was also annoyingly persistent.

Milica told him the address we were looking for, and when he also confirmed that there was no art store, we were ready to give up.  But he kept pushing.  He was determined to help us find it.

“There’s a French place here.” He kept saying, but we were fairly certain it wasn’t the right place.  While the art store did have a French name, we figured that you would be able to tell that it was an art supply store.  But he kept pushing.  So we finally, were like “okay, let’s go there”.  Milica was frustrated, possibly verging on angry, while I was amused (at her irritation).

We walked in, thanked him, and moved off to the side.  I’m not sure where we were, but the lobby seemed fancy enough: carpeted, softly paying TV in the corner, a person manning a desk with a computer.  We stood to the side for a moment, trying to figure out what we would do next.

We finally decided to find someone to ask if they knew of the store.  Milica saw the desk before I did (as I said, her vision is better than mine) so she lead us over there.

“Excuse me?” We asked in an awkward harmony.

“How can I help you?” The woman asked, her softly French-accented voice delighted me (I love accents, both for imitating and listening to).

“Well, we’re looking for an art store.” I said.  “Do you know of one around here?”

“No,” she said.  “But I will Google.”

“Thank you,” we said, once again in an awkward harmony.  Milica’s sounded as though she was going to decline, where I was waiting for her to find it.

“there is a da Vinci’s artist supply,” she started.  But then stopped, apparently it was somewhere in the west 50s, and that would have required walking many avenues.  “There is also New York Artist’s supply on Third Avenue.”

We thanked her excitedly, reaffirmed the address and headed out.

“I’m sorry,” Milica said.  It was the first of many apologies to follow.  “I’m dragging you around.”

“It’s fine,” I said, laughter coloring my voice.  “I’m entertained.  And we continued talking from there.

Upon arriving at the southeast corner of 63 and Third, we realized that we had a dilemma: which side of the street was it on? I thought we should turn and walk along 63, but Milica pointed out that the address said only Third Avenue, not 63 so it was probably on either side of the street.  So we turn and head back down the block to see if we’d passed it.

“Okay,” Milica said, putting her vision to good use.  “This looks like a diner or something so not here.” We keep going.  “I’m not sure what this is—” She moves back and takes out her phone, trying to read the sign.

“Let’s just go in,” I say.  So we do.

It smelled like laundry.  But it didn’t seem like a laundromat, so maybe a dry cleaners?

We stood awkwardly at the door as the business was conducted farther inside.  And no one said a word to us.  I’m sure then stared, but we were offered no help.

So we left and decided to go back to the diner, hoping that someone in there could help us.  We walked in, and then conferred at the door, trying to figure out what to do; it was fairly empty.  We walk in a few more steps.

“Um…” I say.

“Maybe we should—” Milica starts.

“Do you need help?” a man asks, I think he was the person that seats you.  Seater? Greeter? Is maítre d’ the appropriate word? Or would that be the host(ess)?

“Yes,” I say.  We’re looking for an art supplies store—” Milica gives him the address and we ask if he knows of it.  He doesn’t.

He offers to Google it, or just take a look around.  We give a noncommittal response, and so he decides to take a look outside.

He ushers us to a seat and then tells us to give him a moment.  I assume he went to get permission, because a minute or so later, he returns and tells us he’s going to go check.

Milica and I sit in silence, only occasionally speaking.  I think we were both getting a little tired, and we didn’t want to break the silence.  I’m not sure what Milica does, but I touch my phone a few times, thinking about checking my notifications, but don’t.

The sounds of outside waft in, as the door opens a few minutes later.

“I’m sorry,” the host/maítre d’ guy says.  “I didn’t see any art stores.  But let me Google it.”

So he searches.  I don’t believe the New York store came up, but da Vinci’s did.  And he informs us that it is on 70th and Third Avenue.  Seven blocks…  but at least no more avenues.  We thank him, and head out.

“I’m sorry,” Milica says for what is likely the thousandth time.  “I’m dragging you around with me…”

I assure her that it’s okay.  And we keep going back and forth right up until she hit the pole.  And I start laughing… hysterically, for which she tells me I’m mean (as she begins to laugh as well).  We eventually come to the agreement that it was the universe evenning the score.

So we walk, navigating construction (mostly closed sidewalks that forced us to walk in the street as well as scaffolding).  And then pass a Starbucks (Milica had to make sure that we would stop at it on the way back).  And finally, we are walking along Third Avenue toward east 70th street.

Upon reaching the corner, we turn unto 70th, and  Milica stops.

“These look like apartments,” Milica says.

“Let’s ask someone?” I suggest.

We call out to people, who ignore us until a woman finally stops, and asks how she can help us.

“We’re looking for an art supply store,” I say.  “Da Vinci’s Artist Supply.  It’s supposed to be a long this block.”

“Really?” she asks.  “I don’t think so.  I’ve lived in this neighborhood twenty years, and I don’t know of any art stores around here.”

I explain, briefly, about the adventures of the day and she offers to check her phone.

Milica and I sigh softly to one another and wait as she checks.

“The only one I see is on East 23.” she tells us.

We thank her dejectedly.  Then I remember that Milica wanted to stop at Starbucks on the way back.  Since my school is in the area, I had a vague idea of where it was (yes, we’d passed it earlier, but we were on a mission so we didn’t double check the street that it was on).

“The Starbucks is on 66, right?” I asked.

“You’re on 70 now,” she starts.

“Yes,” I say,” But we want to go to Starbucks, is it on 66 Street.”

We dance around a few minutes more before she finally tells us that we have to turn right so that we are walking along third, and walk four blocks.

All she had to say was yes.  Four blocks from 70, IS 66!

Later that day I relayed the events to my sister, who looked of da Vinci’s Artist Supply.  It was on 70th and Madison! We probably only had to walk a few more feet to find it.  And it apparently has a giant red sign in front of it.

I’d called my sister that day, to ask her if she could double-check the location of the original store Milica had found, but she was at a wedding or something.

The following weekend, Milica went back on her own and found it (she’s color blind so she wouldn’t have been able to see that the sign was red, but she very likely could still have seen that there was a sign and read it).  So we know that the store does exist…  only it’s closed on weekends. So it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Sigh.

Till Next Time

P.S. I have a post scheduled to upload tomorrow at 9 AM.  And I hope to have one up on Tuesday, but if not, Saturday (and every Friday or Saturday after). It’s been written into the tentative life schedule I’ve made for myself (I procrastinate a lot). Sorry 🙂