Pardon My Asking

Here’s a scene from the movie, Ray:

Bus Driver: Pardon me for asking, but how do you get around so good without a cane or a dog?

Ray Charles: How do you get around so good without a cane or a dog?

Touché, Brother Ray.  Then Ray smiles, sits back, and patiently explains how he does it.

Like Ray, I am capable of reacting with annoyance.  None of your business.  Leave me alone, will ya?

And, like Ray, I take the time to explain.  I do my part to stop the spread of ignorance.  Like it or not, I am an educator.  What I convey helps others understand blindness.

If I assume the public should instinctively know blind etiquette, then I ignore my own experience.  For thirty-five sighted years, I had no clue and little curiosity about life as a blind person.  Why would I?

As my eyesight dims, questions arise.  How the heck will I get around?  Read the paper?Shop for food?  These days, I must be tolerant when others pose the very questions I ask myself.

Questions are natural from people who wish to understand, to help but don’t know how.  If I fail to educate, I must tolerate those who assume to know how a blind man should cross the street.  I must bear the consequences of the eager but ignorant helper.

People inhibit their natural curiosity.  They don’t like to pry.  All at the expense of connecting on a human level.  Blindness brings separateness, and for me, isolation is not just lonely, it’s dangerous.

So, go ahead and ask me what it’s like to be blind.  If I pause to debate whether you come from sincere empathy or morbid curiosity, I will lose the decisive moment.  And the loss will be mine.  And yours.  And all of ours.

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One Response to Pardon My Asking

  1. guidepooch says:

    Some days it is difficult to be a Blind Ambassador but you’re right, it’s up to us to dispel the myths as no one is going to do it for us. I was also clueless about how vision loss works and guide dog etiquette before losing my sight. The internal debate for me is always whether it’s worth it to educate this particular person because some people are not coming from empathy or curiousity, which requires a different sort of response.

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