Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Driving Blind

| Filed under blindness Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I had a horrible encounter a few nights ago while traveling to a meeting. It was humiliating and left me feeling as if a piece of the hard-won confidence I have acquired over the years was chipped away by ignorance. I don’t want to revisit the entire debacle but the vestiges of the damage are still in my mind and heart. My post-script has been handled with the cab company and apologies were made, yet I cannot let it go.

When I cannot leave something like this alone, I write to purge and invite the catharsis of the written word and this experience is no exception.

The theme here is a merging of what it means to be blind and how an interaction can leave one feeling successful or unprepared and undervalued in society. I am not speaking of being overlooked in the deli line; I am not referring to avoiding being spirited across the street by well-meaning but clueless pedestrians. While these are all part and parcel of our daily interactions with the sighted world in a general way, we do have some control and influence in these examples. We can speak up and state our needs and folks can listen or pass us by. We have control of where we go and what we do and how we want it to happen

I think what I am trying to describe is a form of passive victimization. I was held hostage in a car by a person (the cab driver) who refused to consider me. At one point I thought to myself, if he doesn’t stop and I can’t get out, I will have to call 911.

Let me also say at no time was I harmed or put in danger, at least not physically; I was ignored, we were lost, the suggestions I made were ignored; the suggestions by the GPS and two friends over the phone were also lost to this man and when I began to cry from fear and frustration, these were also ignored. Perhaps the driver was also panicking, unprepared for me and the services my disability required; perhaps he was afraid of my dog — but at the time I was not able to reach beyond my own fear. In hindsight, I believe he probably deserved to be part of this experience and I sure hope he learned something positive from it. On a harsher note, it is my opinion he shouldn’t be driving a cab and even I could tell couldn’t read the street signs.

For those reading this, becoming a confident traveler who is blind builds up over time, perhaps even years. I am not alone when I say there is a hint of unease each time someone like me takes up the harness handle or white cane and steps beyond the safety zone. It’s like learning how to drive the first timeand reliving it to a certain extent, depending on who you are and how well equipped you are mentally and physically. Sure, training and good orientation help but there will be times when all your skills have no influence on the outcome, when you have lost control and you have no idea how to respond. This is how it was the other night and it felt like I was in a bad accident without receiving any whiplash.

I hope I don’t have a repeat of this experience , and, if I do, I will be better prepared. Feeling helpless is amplified for a person with a disability and the way I reacted is not outside of the norm, yet part of me feels ashamed of how I reacted and I still feel embarrassed and angry. So, I am left with coping with words of comfort: this too shall pass.

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