Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Discussion for a Former City Dweller

This email from my dear friend Julia showed up in my inbox the other day, and after laughing out loud 281 times I figured I should share it with all of you. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

So, I am walking in San Francisco during my lunch break this afternoon (beautiful day, by the way...the sun was so yummy and warm), and I decide that I would like to go to Peet's Coffee and Tea to get an iced drink.  I was 2nd in line, and as the person ahead of me moved forward to the counter, I notice that the woman leaving the counter with her hot tea (which everyone knows would melt your skin should it spill) is blind and has her walking stick and kind of awkwardly maneuvers her way through the ropes that make the queue...instead of simply going to the side and walking straight to the table that was empty and literally 7 feet away from her.  In making her way through what would seem like a nightmare if you were blind, she managed to trip up the woman behind me who was doing all sorts of acrobatics so that the woman didn't run into her.  This woman accidentally tripped over the ropes and bumped into me.  At this point, I am wondering, why is it that we are OK running into people...unless they are blind?  Because I also wasn't expecting a grown woman to fall into me, and I was witnessing the whole thing.  I thought, "Whoa, lady." 

So, I sit down and read for about 10 minutes.  When I've walked out the door of Peet's, I notice the blind woman is going the same way as me now!  She does a good job with her walking stick, and it wasn't very crowded on the huge sidewalk.  All the same, I kind of slow down when we cross the intersection to make sure she doesn't topple off the 6-inch curb (which I have done, and again, I am not BLIND).  She caught up with me at the next intersection again, only at this one, we're gonna cross a 6-lane street with a concrete median in the middle.  I sit there as the walk-light is about to go on and I start thinking, "Shit, what do I do?  Do I offer to help her across because this could go horribly wrong!" Instead, I decide to let her go on her independent way, and if she looks like she falls or anything, I will stay near so that I may help her.  I don't want to make her feel uber handicapped like she can't cross a fucking street by herself.  She lives in a damn city!  

To my surprise, as we both set off across the street, she walks straight into the lines of cars lined up waiting at the light!  What the Hell. I look like an ass. The worst is that instead of going over to help her, I am trying really hard not to chuckle because it is kind of funny. What is the etiquette of a blind person crossing the road?  Do you help, or do you not help?  Do you think we stare and avoid helping more because we know they can't see us?  In the end, I made sure she didn't die going across by staying at a safe distance, and realized that the whole movement of political correctness has made me incapable of knowing appropriate kindness.  


This is the EXACT kind of awkward situation that gives me fodder for this blog. So, dear reader, what would you have done?


Alyssa @ Life of bLyss said...

I like her take on the whole thing. If this lady is by herself, she's probably independent enough to handle it. However, like your friend, I probably would have felt a strong need to stick to her side until she seemed to navigate out of harm's way on her own.

She's so right though! What's worse.. letting the handicapped person get hurt on your watch, or offering to help and subsequently offending them?

Christine Dryden said...

Mr. Chris has a very funny story about helping a blind student across campus one time. I look forward to telling it, if he you don't get his rendition sooner.

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