Acknowledgements, Thanks, And Praise

Well, today’s the day: this is my one hundredth post on Where’s Your Dog. Some of you may be surprised to find out that I never, ever thought I’d reach this milestone.

This blog began, not as a noble attempt to educate, but as a combination of joke and experiment. I’d been talking about blogging for years, even before I’d known about the disability blogosphere, but I never imagined I’d actually go through with it. I always said I’d call it “Where’s your dog?” just to highlight the absurdity of stereotypes in general, and in a fit of inspiration one day, I went ahead and entertained the idea. Next thing I knew, Where’s Your Dog had taken off, and here we are.

Instead of writing the usual content today, I decided to stray into meta territory and thank the many people who have supported me throughout this project, and who I expect will be with me for as long as it lasts.

First, thank you to those who encouraged my writing, always, and were the first to pounce on my blog with enthusiasm. Family, friends, and teachers were chiefly responsible for the existence of this blog–as well as my writing career in general–and I cannot express how grateful I am for their steadfast faith in me.

Next, I want to thank the contributors who have offered quotes, ideas, and whole blog posts to enrich my own writing. You’ve given this space a diversity and depth I could not achieve on my own.

Bucketloads of thanks are in order for all those who have shared and commented consistently during the last two years. Whether you tweeted an article here and there or read faithfully each week, I am aglow with happiness when you take the time to read and share. The sheer volume of support from all quarters humbles me every day.

I must take a moment to thank readers who, even when they were complete strangers to me, went out of their way to write to me personally and tell me how much they enjoy the blog. At least one reader overcame shyness to write to me, and for that, I’m supremely grateful.

Finally, I must acknowledge those who lend me space on their own blogs. Blindbeader has been kind enough to link to me often, and promote my work as though it were as important as her own. So, to all the bloggers who have boosted my blog: I thank you from the bottom of my considerable heart.

I hope my readers will stick with me. I don’t know how long this journey will be or where it will take me, but I hope to see you all there at the end of it.

Advertisements

Age, Sex, Location, … Eye Condition?

“So…what have you got?”
“How…how did it happen?”
“Have you always been blind, or…?”
“So, what’s your eye condition? Mine’s ___.”

These are common icebreakers, coming from sighted and blind people alike. They are sometimes probing questions—people love a tragic story—but they’re usually well-meant attempts to start a conversation. It helps them start somewhere, especially if blindness is a novelty for them. It’s perfectly understandable that blind people would also ask these questions. They’re looking for solidarity and common ground. It makes sense.

Increasingly, however, I’ve grown weary of answering the questions. People have posed them before they’ve even bothered to ask my name, as though my blindness is the only immediately relevant detail. Others zip through the usual pleasantries, then lean forward in a confidential way and ask, in hushed tones, how it happened. In all these cases, I’m left feeling just a tiny bit miffed. While I’m happy enough to answer general questions, my eye condition is the least interesting fact about me, in my opinion, anyway. I’d much rather spend time chatting about my career aspirations, musical interests, and even the weather. Discussing these points makes me feel less like a novelty and more like an ordinary human. Worse, focusing on my eye condition gives me less to work with when I try to get to know you, especially if you are sighted. Throw me a rope, if you can, because discussing a disability you don’t have doesn’t give me much of a springboard.

I’ve noticed another variation of this tendency, wherein I mention a new blind person my sighted friends or family have never heard of. Almost invariably, the first thing out of their mouths is “Oh, what’s their eye condition?” I’ve seen people become annoyed and even frustrated when I draw a blank.
“Do you know…I don’t think I even asked.”
“You’ve known them for how long and you don’t even know that? Isn’t that sort of a basic thing to know?”
“It just…never came up.”

Yes, I have friends I’ve known for years whose eye conditions I either never knew, or forgot somewhere along the way. While I can usually tell you how much vision they have, if any, it’s a challenge for me to remember the exact details.

Why am I incurious? I don’t really know, but I do know I’m not the only one who isn’t very curious and who doesn’t really think it’s an important thing to know about a person. A friend was venting recently about her family’s obsession with eye conditions, after which she guiltily remarked that she could no longer recall mine.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I doubt I even told you.”

Is it a sin to break the ice this way? No, of course it isn’t. Are there better, more tactful ways to get to know someone? Absolutely. While many blind people are amenable to discussing their eye conditions, you might have a more enjoyable conversation if you investigate their personalities and interests rather than the specifics of their blindness. Just a tip.

So, friends, I challenge you to go forth, break thou some ice, avoid mentioning eye conditions, and see what you discover.

Dear Distracted Driver

I can picture what may have been on your mind. Maybe you’d just spilled scalding hot coffee on your brand new outfit, which was doubly annoying because you were on your way to a job interview—one you’d been preparing for with much nervousness and anticipation. Maybe you were late for said interview, and maybe your son chose that moment to text you: he forgot his lunch again—could you please bring it to him later? Maybe your heart sank. You didn’t have time for this—time for life, really—and the stress was piling on. You came to a rolling stop at the crosswalk, pausing just long enough to alert any dawdling pedestrians of your presence, reasoning that they’d see you and get out of the way. Then, you went ahead and stepped on it.

This particular time, the pedestrian was me.

You missed the white cane, I imagine, focused as you were on your phone, or the spilled coffee, or whatever it is you were distracted by. You missed the fact that I was dressed in a tight skirt and heels, and would never have had time to throw myself out of your way or run ahead of you as you drove toward me. I’m assuming that, for any number of reasons, you missed the fact that I was there at all. It took someone else’s frantic scream—I was standing there like a bewildered deer in headlights–before you lurched to a halt, giving me just enough time to hurry past before you took off again.

I know what you must have been thinking: pedestrians will move out of the way. Pedestrians can see you coming. Pedestrians do have the right of way, yes, but it wouldn’t kill them to wait once in a while, would it?

Most of the time, it wouldn’t, especially not at crosswalks … but one day, it just might.

No, I have no way of really knowing what was going through your head that day. I have no idea whether you were distracted, impatient, or simply negligent. I’ll probably never know. What I do know is that you are not alone. You have joined the ranks of the many other drivers who have run red lights, sped through quiet streets without looking, and inched their way by because I haven’t crossed the street rapidly enough for their liking. Every day, frustrated drivers curse slow, irritating pedestrians as we plod along across the street, often crossing when we’re not supposed to or taking too long to cross at all. Generally, it’s because we’re busy reading texts of our own, or mopping our own spilled coffee, or otherwise failing to pay attention. Drivers take a lot of heat, and pedestrians are frequently at fault, it’s true.

But what if, as in my case, there’s a different reason? What if the reason we didn’t get out of your way was because we simply couldn’t see you coming? Cars are quieter than they’ve ever been, and can be difficult to hear under certain conditions. Crosswalks and residential streets don’t have strict traffic patterns for us to follow; we just wait, listen, and hope. I’ve gotten used to the innate risk of being a blind pedestrian (which is much lower than most people think, by the way), and while some encounters leave me shaky and frightened, I enjoy the right to navigate urban areas independently.

So, I’m just gonna say it, because it clearly hasn’t gotten through so far: slow down. Slow down, and realize that not everyone is dawdling on purpose. Realize that some of us cannot see you coming, can’t dodge or change direction quickly, and can’t compensate for your distracted driving. Realize that some of us have mobility issues that make it impossible for us to walk quickly, or even cross in a totally straight, perfect line. Realize that, while our slowness and inability to see you can inconvenience you, your carelessness could injure or kill us.

Next time you come to a rolling stop at a crosswalk, I beg you to take the extra few seconds required to come to a full stop, look up from your coffee-covered lap, and pay attention. Remember that even the slowest pedestrian can only take seconds from your life and that one careless mistake could take every second they have left. Remember that, no matter how late you’re running, no matter how busy you are, there is always, always time to stop for pedestrians.
Taking your eyes off your phone and taking the time to look out for me won’t kill you. Failing to do so could kill me.