Many thanks again to Barry for another poigniant and humourous article; reflecting upon some of the day to day experiences that many people have to deal with. The reflections aptly depict the frustrations that many of us have and also the humour paints a brilliant picture of how these can be managed and dealt with. I have not edited any of the language used in this article as I feel that if I had I would have taken away from the flow and real life experiences described so well in the article and from what Barry is saying. Thanks again to Barry:
By Barry Hill
For me, being blind isn’t an insurmountable obstacle to doing everyday tasks, like shopping, it’s simply an inconvenient obstacle that necessitates a work around. Still, there sometimes seems to be the extra obstacle of spontaneous invisibility that occurs when I’m shopping.
I don’t mind that people bump into me when I’m invisible – they tend to bounce off me rather than me off them. I am, however, quite frustrated that in over 20 years no one has actually said to me, “Can’t you look where you’re going?” If this does ever happen, I’m prepared to throw my cane on the ground, raise my hands and face to the heavens and cry, “It’s a miracle. I can see again. That man/woman touched me and I can see!”, then I’d blunder off into the nearest wall or shelves. Too harsh? Fair enough. What I’ll really do is to lamely say, “No. I’m blind.” then I’ll apologise for making the person feel bad when they start gushing.
The closest I’ve come to the ‘Can’t you look where you’re going?’ was whilst sat in a bar with a friend. She went up to the bar for round two and was confronted by a man stood at the bar. The conversation went like this:
Man: “Has your boyfriend got a problem with me?”
My friend: “No, why?”
Man: “He’s been staring at me for the past twenty minutes.”
My friend: “He’s blind.”
The man couldn’t apologise enough and bought me a pint. Not bad getting a pint from someone I’d never met or even talked to. Obviously, my invisibility cloak had slipped off on this occasion.
You may ask how I know I become invisible when I can’t see myself. Well, this invisibility seems to kick in at the most inconvenient times, like when I’m waiting at a counter to be served. People come to the counter after me yet get served before me, which is quite understandable as I am evidently invisible. I do wonder if they are curious that a guide dog is stood there on his own, but this has no bearing on whose turn it is to be served as the dog wouldn’t want serving…. Unless it was at a butchers perhaps.
Another common time that the invisibility kicks in is when I need staff in some shops to help me shop. It’s ok if I know where the help desk is, but most stores don’t have these, so I tend to gravitate towards tills. That’s when I realise that I’m invisible again. Neither till staff, any floating shelf stackers or stomping managers, nor customers can see me stood there like a lemon looking helpless as, erm… well as helpless as a blind man in a store.
Until I realise that I’ve gone invisible again, I try my damdest not to look like I’m just sight-seeing or looking for a friend. I am mistakenly thinking that the first conclusion that any normal person would jump to when they see a man with a guide dog stood a little inside the doorway of a store is that he’s not going to be able to browse the shelves without help. Guide dogs are good, but even the most ignorant of people couldn’t expect me to say, “Good boy, Chester. Go get me a loaf of bread and four pints of milk.” I mean, even Lassie would struggle with my demand for organic semi-skimmed milk.
Now, there is another situation where I am not sure if I have turned invisible, and that’s at zebra crossings. Well, I say ‘zebra crossing’ but I’m not sure that the Council, in its wisdom, has taken the stripes away leaving behind a crossing point to ease traffic flow for the cars going round and round the town centre looking for a parking space.
You may suggest that I would know that the zebra crossing had been taken away because cars don’t stop. Thing is, some do. So, are they stopping because there are still nice people out there who feel compassion towards someone who is evidentally struggling to cross the road or has my invisibility cloak slipped off enough for some drivers to actually see me stood at a zebra crossing? It’s like asking if the traffic jam occurs because of a build up of traffic, or does the traffic build up because of a traffic jam? Actually, it’s nothing like that really, but I bet you all nodded sagely.
As super powers go, it’s a pretty cruel one giving a blind man random invisibility. Perhaps the next time I feel the invisibility kick in, I should bare my arse and see how good it is. Let’s see how the vicar likes them apples.