There was a guy on the bus the other day who complimented me on Kiva and how beautiful she is, asked me how old and what breed she was, and a few other questions I could answer in my sleep because I’ve answered them so many times while I’m awake. I answered him politely but briefly. (I was reading a book on the art of making Asian pickles, and I was on the kimchi chapter. It was intense. Also, I am NOT making this up. The questions part or the kimchi part.)
Presumably because he failed to capture my attention, he turned to the person next to him and started talking to HER about my dog and how beautiful she was. Then he started going down the rabbit hole of completely ridiculous: “Those dogs are so smart. They know exactly when to get off the bus. They just lay down and when their stop comes they’re up and ready to go.”
I’m sure most of you, dear readers, know this is not true. And if you don’t, a tiny foot nudge from Logic is all you need to realize it isn’t true. I take five buses consistently, and various other routes as needed. In order for Kiva to know what stop we want, she would first need to know which of these routes we were on by reading the route number. Since more than one route stops at my usual stops (for example, I go to the same place to catch the 4 and the 2), she would not be able to think, (cue doggy diva voice): “Ok we’re on Franklin and Lyndale, we must be going to that one place I love and not that other place I also love, omg I am so smart.” Even if she had any notion of being on Franklin and Lyndale, she would not know whether we were on the 4 or the 2 without being able to read the number, and there are a number of places we go on both those buses, so she would have no idea which place that would be and thus would not be able to stand up at the correct stop.
That was exhausting. Have I lost you? I hope not, because it gets better. (Who am I kidding, no it doesn’t.)
The bus guy making overblown statements about guide dogs then started making equally bombastic comments about blind people. “Yeah, they always know where they are,” he said. “I know a guy who doesn’t even need the driver to call the stops. He just knows where he is all the time. I guess his other senses just tell him where he is. … Not saying they shouldn’t be callin the stops, but these people always know where they are. It’s incredible.”
The part of flabbergasted and annoyed normal not-special-unicorn blind person will now be played by Lauren.
I don’t know who this mythical blindie is that this dude knows, but I sure have never met them. And I hope to the deity of public transit that the driver wasn’t listening to this guy and thinking, hmmm, maybe I just won’t call the stops any more, since they all know where they’re going. NO WE DON’T!!!! We don’t have some special snowflake internal compass plus navigation system that tells us where in the world we are, nor do our senses, heightened or not, give us any indication where the bus is. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could go on one of my regular routes and count the turns and stops and MAYBE be able to figure out where my stop is. But while I wasted time doing that, I wouldn’t be able to read about kimchi or eavesdrop or do anything short of remembering to breathe, and even that might be too much to ask. Ok, maybe if I stopped breathing, I’d suddenly know exactly where I was all the time.
The Daredevel-blind-people-as-extraordinary trope in which the media portrays us doesn’t help. If the media had its way, we would all walk around touching everyone’s face, being superheroes, and finding our clicky way via echolocation from the moment we emerged into the world. The pedestal on which the media and society places us is not one that I relish or intend to stand on. In stepping onto that pedestal, we also place distance between blind and sighted, an “us” and “them” mentality that casts neither party in a good light. While perpetuating the inaccuracies of blind perfectionism, we create a construct where blind people are fun to gawk at and marvel over, but not to talk to, to touch, or to treat as the multi-dementional individuals we are.
Admittedly, I’m part of the problem. I didn’t say anything. I probably should have, but couldn’t find the energy. But I’m saying something now, and that something is that I AM NOT PERFECT. And if you see me on the street and I look lost, yup, I probably am.