What’s Happening When It Isn’t

Here comes that blind guy with his guide dog and already I’m getting uptight.  I mean, I don’t know how to act around these special needs people.  Some put signs on their dogs—“I’m working.  Don’t feed me.  Don’t pet me. Don’t distract me.”  Jeez, can’t I even look?  Hey, I’m curious about blind people, how they do the stuff they do.  And that goes double for their dogs.

I’ll just sidle off the sidewalk and see how these two handle things.  I’ll be quiet and stand still so the blind guy won’t notice me.  Of course he won’t notice me—he’s blind.  But what about his dog?  And what about my dog, my dog Fido?  Fido’s friendly—he only chases squirrels.  But he’s got a mouth on him.

Here they come.  The blind guy’s big black dog is leaning toward Fido, strutting his stuff a little. And Fido doesn’t say a word but the blind guy says to his dog, “Randy, do you see a friend?”  So the blind guy must know about Fido just from Randy’s what, body language?  That’s pretty impressive teamwork, if you ask me.  Now the blind guy says, “Randy, leave it” like that’s the code word for the dog to forget about Fido.  But Randy’s still curious, though he tries not to be obvious.  He’s walking forward but he’s looking sideways.

Now the blind guy’s staring right at me and I think, “What do I do about this?”  Do I say something, let him know I’m here and that I’ve got Fido and that Fido’s friendly and we’ll let him and Randy pass?  But I think he knows all that already.  And while I’m thinking, the blind guy says, “Good morning,” right to me.  He looks down and says, “Nice dog you’ve got there.”

And all this freaks me out because I figure he’s blind, he’s not going to know I’m here or my dog’s here and nobody’ll be the wiser.  But Randy blows my cover and he tells the blind guy. And the blind guy talks like he knows all about what’s out there that he can’t see, like that I’m carrying my cup of coffee and that I take cream and two sugars.

So the two of them go on down the street as Fido and I stare after them, speechless.  Next time, I’ll introduce myself and Fido.  I won’t pet or feed or distract Randy.  I’ll ask if I can ask a question or two because now I’m even more curious about him and Randy.  One thing’s for sure—they sure seem to know a lot about Fido and me.

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4 Responses to What’s Happening When It Isn’t

  1. bethfinke says:

    Brilliant. The only thing missing is having the sighted guy question whether the person with the Guide dog really is blind or is just “kind of” blind or something. I sometimes feel this when I accomplish something seemingly dangerous with my Seeing Eye dog, I.e. people don’t consider all the training my dog and I went through and all the work we do to keep the dogs working well, they just think, oh, well, that person must be able to see a little bit.


  2. Modwyn says:

    This is so good! I love how you’ve captured the narcissism of the bystander. 🙂

    • stpetric says:

      Seems to me more self-consciousness than narcissism.

      • Modwyn says:

        Such over-the-top self-consciousness is a form of narcissism: it’s total absorption in “how others will see and evaluate me, whether I’m doing the right thing (not for the blind guy but the right thing for me), whether I’ll look good doing what I’m doing.”

        One often encounters this brand of insecurity when nondisabled people are trying to offer assistance to disabled people (usually assistance that we have not asked for): while the urge to help is useful, it’s only useful if the person checks his own insecurities at the door and actually opens a conversation with the disabled person he’s having all these theories about.

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