I know this guy whose T-shirt says, “Don’t follow me — I can’t see where I’m going.” Well, I can’t see where I’m going either but I’m asked for directions all the time. And I’m good at giving them. You see, as a blind person, I have to know where I am and where I’m going. True, I might not know where other people are going but if I do, I give them precise, turn-by-turn instructions — none of this “it’s over there” stuff.
I consider it a testament to faith that a sighted person asks a blind person for directions. Perhaps I project confidence. Perhaps Randy, my Seeing Eye dog, projects competence. More likely, they hope I’ll just pull out my ubiquitous iPhone and ask Siri to tell them how to get to the closest Greek restaurant.
I prove how keen is my sense of location and direction by telling the taxi driver, “We’re going to the Sulzer Public Library branch at Sunnyside and Lincoln. First, take Damen south to Montrose even though that’s farther south than Sunnyside, then turn west on Montrose, then north on Lincoln so we’ll be on the library side of Lincoln and I won’t have to cross the street.” And the driver replies, “Yes, sir,” resisting the urge to inquire how the blind man knows how to get around.
I’m thorough with trip planning because I’m my most reliable navigator. If I tell Randy, “Take me to Navy Pier,” he won’t know what I’m talking about. Nor does the statue to whom I ask directions to Daley Plaza. I’m unsure if foreign language speakers are locals or tourists, but if I could see whether they’re holding a map, I’d know—though that still wouldn’t help me understand what they’re saying. English speakers tend to be directionally challenged, amending their instructions with, “Oh, I meant your other left.” I thank them, knowing no good will come from voicing my thought balloon of, “Mister, my dog knows right from left better than you do.”
Now you see that things work best when I know my coordinates and share my knowledge with those in need. The logistical “how” and “where” begin a positive connection that leads to more substantive sharing, such as, “Oh, you’re going to the Swedish restaurant? May I recommend the Swedish pancakes? The lingonberry sauce is most tasty. And have the limpa toast on the side.” In this manner, the practical becomes pleasurable, even companionable and I might be inclined to say, “Why, I’m headed there myself, so just follow me.”