Something happened to me yesterday that I’ve probably written about in components before, but it all happened to me in one 10-minute interaction yesterday, so I thought I’d write about it.
I got off the bus and started to walk. I got to the first intersection, and something seemed a wee bit off about my alignment. So I walked over to the pole and sort of used it to fix my problem. Suddenly, without warning, someone came up behind me and grabbed me. I realize in retrospect that they thought they were helping. What they got was a scream and a flail. It was only then that they decided to speak. Don’t do that! Stee-rike 1!
After my heart returned to my chest, we crossed the street together…this woman holding my arm in a death grip. I kept telling her I was ok, but she would not let go. Only when I got to the other side did she unclamp my arm. As I walked along, I noticed that, oddly, there was another person walking in perfect lock-step beside me, but not saying a word. I got to a piece of ripped up sidewalk and I was letting Tansy figure out what she was going to do…when…grab! The same woman! Got greeted by the same scream and flail! Please, learn, woman, learn! My suspicions about the person walking beside me were confirmed. That was not a coincidence, I was being followed. Stee-rike 2!
Again, she waited until she had me snared, and only then did she open her mouth. She told me the sidewalk was blocked off and we had to walk in the road. “Ok, Ok, good to know,” I sputtered as once again I tried to put my heart back into my chest.
After that, I guess she figured out that all this grabby grabby wasn’t working out so well, and decided to just a. not let go, and b. talk. The not letting go was a bit annoying, but I put up with it because at least we were having a conversation and she wasn’t startling me every 30 seconds.
It was a good thing she was there, because when we got to the next intersection, it was in complete chaos, with all kinds of weirdness going on. She then decided to walk me to my destination, a drug store. But as we approached the door, she had to leave me with one final…parting gift. She decided to hit the automatic door button for me, why people do this confuses the hell out of me. This door doesn’t make any sound and swings towards the approaching person. So, Tansy and I got a face full of silently-ambushing electric door. Ste-rike 3! I was annoyed at this point and kind of told her so. I’m sure she left thinking I was the most ungrateful blind person. I’m sad that that’s probably how she feels, but I really don’t care. Let me break down why.
First off, for the love of Pete, as one of my blind friends says, stop with the grabby grabby! Unless I’m about to become road paste, or fall to my doom into a pit, there is no reason why you can’t open your mouth and explain something to me. I am capable of comprehending speech, and will very likely much appreciate your help. This is simple to me, and I can’t understand why this is so goddamn hard for so many people to grasp. Don’t you value your own personal space? Would you like some random to just walk up to you and grab you? Would you consider it acceptable behaviour? I don’t think so, so why on earth should I be expected to quietly put up with anything less? Add to that the fact that I can’t see you coming, and…you’ve got a perfect recipe for no good.
I can’t assume your intentions are benign. What are some reasons people grab people. I dunno, mugging, Ghomeshiing, being dragged off into the woods in the dead of night, things like that. Note, that last link is from my own area. So, excuse me for being a little jumpy when I’m being grabbed. I’m jumpy already, but these days, I don’t know, with all the horrible news I’m seeing about creepy dudes and the like, I’m really jumpy. Add on to that that Captain Nameless Illness sometimes plagues me with a feeling of cognitive fog, so sometimes I’m extra scared that I am not taking in my surroundings as well as I could be, and if you grab me, you will get a bigger startle response than I normally would give you.
Next up, knock it off with the stealthy stalky! If you want to come with me to help me out, just tell me that! Don’t assume that I won’t notice you sneaking along beside me. I will. I will, and I will be more afraid. Would you want to be followed? Would you want to be followed at night down a deserted street? Really? Do you think I’m not smart enough to notice? You’re always talking about how you’ve heard that the rest of our senses are so much better. Why now do you think I won’t notice you?
I had this happen to me years ago too. I was so freaked out that I picked up my cell phone, called Steve and loudly proclaimed “Hi, I think I’m being followed. I think I know who, it’s this helpful woman I came across while walking to the store, but I really don’t know, so I want to keep you on the phone in case I’m wrong.” The woman heard me and sheepishly spoke up. Wouldn’t it have been so much simpler to just tell me you want to make sure I get home safely and then we could have a nice, easy conversation?
And last, please please please, if you want to open a door for me, warn me! Sometimes pushing the automatic door opener button doesn’t make things easier for me, especially when those power doors don’t make noise and swing the wrong way. I really don’t appreciate getting a face full of very mobile glass door, and neither does Tansy.
I was very happy that woman was there when we got to the heavy construction, and I was grateful for her help. What I didn’t appreciate was all the touchy grabby draggy without communicating, and is that really so hard to understand?
So, for everybody out there who likes to grab first, ask questions later, here are some things you can do instead that will make us much happier, and make our interactions with you go much smoother.
1. What do we say to toddlers? “Use your words! If you see me headed for something you want to warn me about, or you think I might need some help, if you say “excuse me,” I’ll likely stop, and then you can just say “The sidewalk’s a little ripped up ahead, would you like some help?” Or, “Which street are you trying to cross?” or “Here comes the no. 7 bus, did you want that one?” or whatever the situation du jour is. But this lets us tell you what we might need, which, believe it or not, you don’t know right off the bat just because you can see and I can’t. Just the other day, I had to fight my way out of a mob of people outside the doors of a building who were rather forcefully shoving me towards the door. No,no. I wanted to cross the street and catch a bus!
But the more obvious thing is it makes us feel like regular human beings, human beings deserving of respect, human beings you regard as equals. Is that so damn hard?
2. Ask us what would be helpful. People always grab our arms and drag us through a construction zone. In actual fact, it would be far more helpful if we could take your arm. We don’t need assistance with balance, which is what I think they think they’re doing by grabbing us, but what we need is a warning system of what bumps are ahead. If we have your arm, you walk a step ahead, and when you step down or up, we feel it, and know we have to do the same.
But maybe you might encounter someone who is blind and also has some balance issues. Or maybe they have a dog and just want to follow you. Just ask. We know what we need.
Same goes for doors. Don’t just open the automatic door, or other door for that matter. Tell me you’re going to get the door, or ask if I want help with the door. Maybe being able to feel the door actually gives me a clue about navigating the building I’m entering, so it would be awesome if I could open the door. Maybe it swings towards the dog and I’d like to get her out of the way first. The simple thing, though, is just ask. Let us work as a team, rather than you as some kind of superhero and me as a helpless sheep. That relationship is degrading to me, frustrating for both of us, and just unnecessary.
So, please, nice woman who helped me through the construction on Charles Street yesterday, do you now understand why I was so surly with you? I did appreciate your help. I just would have preferred a little more communication is all. I hope I see you again on better terms.