Happenings at CLB

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Observations from a Blind Girl

by Danyel Goldsmith

When I was a kid, I remember reading Reader’s Digest and I always turned to Life in these United States, Military Humor or things of the like. I sometimes feel like I am in a version of that by the questions or things that people say to me or do around me. I am sure that I could make each item an article all by itself, and I could wax poetic for hundreds of words. But, for some reason I am feeling the light-heartedness of summer.

So I hope to be equally funny, cute, and yes even exasperating because I think that we have all been through some version of this.

By now, I think it is well known that I am a newly blind woman, and before Adam (the tumor, aptly named for an ex-boyfriend who I wanted both to be obliterated), the only vision issues that I had was when the optometrist intentionally made the vision chart blurry. So all things blind are quite new for me those who love me, co-workers and even those people who do not even like me, but know me.  I have always been open to questions and discussion. I suppose I am often the first blind person that people know. So why not dispel or inform them. Well, that is the way I see it. And that is exactly where I will start. Because I spent the first 41-years of my life with vision, I use visual words in my daily life. In fact, I have a lot of fun with people with what I say. One day I will count up all the ways to use them in a sentence but, for now, here are some real examples from work:

1      Hey Rusty, if you see Randy before I do, tell him I am looking for him.

2      (Talking to my boss and I did not add something to a  policy letter) I am sorry I lost sight of that. He responded with is that a joke because you cannot see it?

3      I was talking with my mentor about a strategic vision and we were engaged in the discussion when I said, of course you have to create a line of sight…. And being the quick witty guy he is, he came back at me with “that could be a dark and curvy line”

Those are the first three work-related comments that come to mind. I always say that I am watching television. Inevitably someone will say, don’t you mean listen to television?  And of course I retort with something to the effect of, now that just sounds silly.  I still watch TV; it just doesn’t have a picture.  And yes, just like you, I have to tell everyone that it is ok for them to use visually-based words when they hem and haw for another word. Since this it is between friends, I have to admit that often I allow folks to do that slightly awkward quick-thinking for a  word to substitute for a  visual word. Depending on my mood will determine how long I let them fumble along before I let them off the hook. Why take away some of my fun, right?

Like all close friends and family we all develop inside jokes and silly things that become legendary and often a part of regular embarrassment.  Well, this one still sends us into a fit of giggles. One afternoon Faye was cutting my shaggy bangs to get the irritation out of my eyes and face. After she was satisfied that they were straight and perfect, she proclaims “there, can you see now?  “To which I respond with “Wow, is that all it takes? I should have gotten haircut months ago!” And we all laughed and laughed and laughed.  Yes, whenever there needs some levity, I am usually the one to say “quick, give me a haircut so I can see again!” If only it were that easy.

At the 6-month mark, I thought that it would be a good idea if I gave a presentation at work on my devices and tools and my color identifier was on the agenda. After all I  wouldn’t  want to wear  my green pants with  an orange  blouse and the hot pink shawl  with a  purple and one blue sock, now would I?  Well, maybe on National Neon Color Appreciation Day, but only in my nightmares would that happen on any other day. So, a few months later, a co-worker asks completely out of the blue “Where is your color thing?” Of course I am clueless, so he describes the identifier as my garage door looking thing that calls out colors. I am still confused and he asks if I carry it around with me so I know what color different things are. I finally understand what he’s talking about, but I told him that I only use it to coordinate my clothes so I do not look silly.  Can you picture this blind lady randomly using the color identifier at things so she knew the color of that random item? Yea, well I think that would be odd, but that is just me.

Like everyone else, I eat out at restaurants. Inevitably, the hostess puts a menu in front of me. Now, I am sure you know by now, that I am a bit irreverent and.  So I usually ask “Why did you give the blind lady a menu?” I have gotten a few responses all along the lines of “oops, sorry” but the one that was most ridiculous was the girl who told me she did not notice.  Um, really? She did not see the 4 foot white cane with reflective red tape on it?  Wow, maybe I should give her one of my spare canes!

I have recently moved and there are a couple of super funny things that have happened that are noteworthy. Faye put together my kitchen for me and that is absolutely wonderful. The drawback? It took me awhile to figure out where things were. And one day I called her three times to find this or that. Finally the last time was for the tin foil. For the life of me I could not find it. Where does she put it? On top of the stove on that little lip   between the wall and the stove. So when she tells me I say, Oh, I see it, to which she gleefully exclaims Hallelujah!

Now here’s one with the joke on me having just moved, my brother set up my JAWS-enabled computer. I am talking with Faye, who is sitting across from me, when suddenly JAWS chortles at me that my anti-virus software needs updating. So, of course, I look over in the direction of the computer and  tell my brother to go ahead and install I You can imagine my surprise when he says in his deep Barry White-esque  voice from right across from me,  “and while you are at  it please get me a soda.”  We all laughed, because I obviously thought he was sitting at the computer! And apparently the look on my face was priceless.

A few months ago, I had to go to urgent care for strep throat.  My brother filled out the requisite forms in triplicate and upon returning them to the receptionist, he noted that she had highlighted quite a few items on another form and asked me to read them and initial. Now, I fully admit I have not learned the subtle act of not having a  stupid look on my face that clearly can be read in non-verbal communication as “Are you freaking  kidding me?”  My brother saves her and kindly tells her that I am blind (again, I guess my cane must have been invisible). She responds to him with me sitting right there, “but she can still see though.”  Now my first issue with that is I am sitting there and I am not being addressed, so I say so, and no, I cannot see. It is completely black for me. And she continues, I will still need you to initial where I have highlighted. And I am just stupefied when I ask her how I was supposed to know what was highlighted? My brother saves her and reads the items to me and helps show me where to initial.  A few minutes later, as we are waiting for the Doctor, he tries to get me to lighten up over that and suggests that I should have responded differently when she asked my occupation. As a life-long Marine, he suggested I say that I was a sniper. We howled and among the occupations mentioned were cab driver, water-color instructor and phlebotomist. In case you are wondering, these are the folks that take your blood for tests.  Can you imagine a blind person coming into the room with her cane to take your blood?  Well, we thought it was hysterical, and got me over being mad at that lady.

Every day at work, I step into the elevator and most times I will be asked what floor I am going to and they press the number for me. This one morning was no different. What was different was his voice was British and it was quite sexy. We chatted and I mentioned that I had only been blind for a year or so. He asked if I minded him asking a question. For the record, he could have asked me anything as long as he kept talking, so of course I did not mind. It was a bit surprising when he asked what I missed most.  I immediately told him that I missed colors, sizes, shapes and shadows because I used to be a photographer.  He retorted, “well, now, that could be tricky now.” Then we both giggled. I am not sure if it was because of stating the obvious, but that was a few months ago and I still remember the interaction

Not to be indelicate, but I  cannot tell you how many times I  have felt certain parts of folks body that is usually meant for more intimate relationships that I have with them. Especially when the accidental touch happens in public.  Inevitably, I am reaching for something that she  is trying to hand me and I really miss her arm or hand.  I always get a surprised look on my face, say something like “oops, that was not your hand” and apologize. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but there have been some interesting comebacks.  Here are some of the notable ones:

1      Thanks, that’s the most action I have gotten in a while.

2      Thanks, now let me return the favor. (And I assure you, it wasn’t my hand she touched )

3      I  didn’t feel a  thing, you got the fake one (she had a  mastectomy )

Awkward? Yes. Funny? Absolutely!  Life is full of funny and sometimes inappropriate moments. What we do with them is the real testament. Besides, I have found that so much of the time, things are so serious, that I have to find the humor in the benign, the ordinary and the silly. I still need to find a good way to record some of the things that happen, and sometimes just the random thoughts, so that when I write the next bestseller, I have more fodder. Well, that’s that the way I see it, but what do I know, I can’t see anything.