People hear blind and what do they think? They think white cane, guide dogs and not seeing anything at all. They don’t think tunnel vision, no color vision and not being able to see at night.
In my experience, it is just easier for people to think that I am totally blind than just partially. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to explain my vision to people. And I think you’d be able to imagine how annoying that is.
I am very thankful that I have the vision that I do. In fact, I have more than I am supposed to have now. But there have been a few situations in life where it would probably have been easier to explain if I was totally blind.
Let’s start with the obvious things.
When I’m walking through Walmart and someone stops short right out of my range of vision. There is no question that I’m going to walk right into their cart. Or in some bad situations, right into them. Unfortunately for these people, I’m 6’2” 200 pounds and if I crash into most people, I’m winning that battle. Usually I’m able to laugh it off and just pretend like I wasn’t paying attention. Most people are pretty receptive to it. Others, not so much. Then when I apologize and say I’m legally blind, because I don’t “look” like I’m blind they just think I’m a jerk.
Situations like that happen so often that I’ve become used to them. I’m sure I have a permanent bruise on my thigh from where I bump into stuff on a daily basis. But there have been a few situations that are so few and far between where I either offend someone, or put myself in quite a pickle without even trying.
One time, I went to Wendy’s with a friend of mine to grab some lunch. As I stood in line trying to decide what to order, I realized there didn’t seem to be anyone at the counter taking orders. So I started to space out and wait for whoever it was to come back to the counter. I am not an impatient person. Then I heard, “Hey man! Can I take your order?” I snapped out of my little trance and looked around. I couldn’t find the person who had just said that. Then I figured I must’ve just heard the drive thru guy, so I went back to my daydreaming. My buddy then nudged me and said “are you gonna get something?” I responded with, “yeah just waiting for the cashier.” My buddy then laughed and said, “he’s right there.” I frantically started scanning around looking for the guy. I was starting to panic. I had a couple choices, keep searching for the guy that was clearly there or just make my order to the phantom cashier. I chose the second option and ordered my double cheeseburger fries and a drink. I was dreading what happened next. The invisible cashier told me the price and I had to pay for the food. How the heck am I going to hand him my debit card. But, in a stroke of luck, the guy decided to get my fountain drink before taking my payment. As he placed the empty cup on the tray it made a noise. That prompted me to look down. I finally found the guy. And my stomach dropped. The cashier was a little person.
I felt awful, because he had clearly had seen me frantically scan for him and I figured he would think I was mocking him. I hastily apologized and was able to stammer out, “sorry man, I’m blind.” Thankfully, the guy had a good sense of humor and just laughed and said, “it’s all good man, I figured it was something.”
Now that situation was harmless. This next one not so much.
It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Westfield. And as anyone whoever went to Westfield State knows, once there are puddles, there are always puddles. On my way to World Literature class, I must’ve stepped in every puddle between my dorm and the building the class was in. But this was to be expected. I even prepared for this. I wore my old sneakers that were already destroyed, and just powered through. It was my only class of the day and I could be uncomfortable for an hour.
It started like any other class. I didn’t have many classes in this building because it was mainly for communications majors. I guess it was just the only classroom available at that time.
Anyway, my professor was ranting on and on about the epic of Gilgamesh which I 100% didn’t read. I was just going through the motions. But then, all of a sudden, something hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m pretty sure my stomach exploded. And then all I could think about was how much I needed to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, my professor was standing a foot in front of my seat and my shoes were soaked. There would be no way I could stand up without making some kind of scene. So I made a decision right there, I was going to tough it out. I only had 5 minutes until the end of class.
I preemptively put all my stuff away and got ready for the professor to dismiss us. The second he walked over to his bag and told us all to have a good day, I shot up out of my seat and took off out the door. As I sprint walked down the hallway, I could hear every classroom I passed exploding with the sound of chairs sliding away from desks. I was hoping I could get to the restrooms before anyone else was in the hallway. I was successful. I locked eyes on the door of the bathroom and exploded through the door. I burst into a stall and started to sit down at the same time as locking the stall door. An impressive feat if I do say so myself.
After that I could control none of what happened. As my good friend Rich would say, I made that bathroom a sad place. It was honestly some of my best work.
After I did what needed to be done, and the emergency seemed to be over, I decided to take a look around. I had never been in that bathroom before. As any blind person will tell you, it’s always good to make a mental map of every possible place you might frequent. As I scnanned the stall, I noticed something peculiar. The was a small trash can mounted on the wall next to the toilet paper dispenser. What a nice touch I thought. Then the gravity of the situation hit me.
Just when the wave of realization of where I was hit me, the door of the bathroom opened. And my fears were confirmed. Three distinctly female voices entered the bathroom. I did the only thing I could think of. I threw my feet up on the door of the stall and hoped I could wait this out. As I sat there, one of the girls commented on the foul smell that was emanating from the stall I was sitting in. Each one of them then proceeded into separate stalls.
Now, I don’t claim to know what you ladies do in the bathroom, but these particular ladies were taking an eternity to get out of there. My legs posted up against the stall door were starting to burn. My old sneakers had no tread left on them and them being soaked didn’t help. Finally, all three of the girls exited their stalls and began washing their hands. Just then, my legs gave out and my shoes slid down the door of the stall and slammed to the floor. An extended silence took over the room. After what seemed like a fortnight, the girls finished up washing their hands and started to leave. As the last one went out the door all I heard was, “that girl had the biggest feet I’ve ever seen.”
After I was sure they were gone, I swiftly departed and got out unscathed.
Walking into the wrong bathroom is something a fully blind person could totally get away with. But not me. I didn’t have my cane and again, I don’t “look” blind. So if those girls saw me, I might have been looked at as some kind of sexual deviant. I couldn’t just stagger out saying, “sorry ladies, thought this was the mens room.” I get slapped so hard my sight may come back.
I tell you these stories to show the plight of the partially blind. And how just because someone doesn’t “look” blind, it doesn’t mean they aren’t legally blind.
Just for the record, I now carry my cane almost everywhere I go. Just in case I stumble into a women’s dressing room or something.