I was at UCLA the other day, routine stuff, nothing to do with RP, and I was cruising around with Zelda.  I find it most advantageous to keep my hat and sunglasses on when Z and I are on the move. It makes me feel more clandestine and it makes me look more blind.   I seem to be thinking about myself what I believe sighted people  are thinking about me; I can see, so why the hell do I have the cane?  I know why, I have written about why, I get it both logically and emotionally, but still I feel like I am not blind enough or not a good enough blind person.  Perhaps that is just my usual way of thinking about myself in regard to life in general; I am never good enough.

Anyway, I was walking around being a not good enough blind person, and when I went into the medical building, it was full of tarps and tape and wood and all sorts of construction devices. I needed to get down to the basement level to the radiology department, but it looked like the elevators were blocked off.  I walked around aimlessly for a while, not sure where to go and then headed for the stairwell.  I figured I could get to the basement and practice using  Z on the stairs.

As I neared the stairs, I heard a man approach and ask, ” Ma’m, do you need help?  You are heading for the stairs.  Are you sure you want the stairs?”

I, of course, knew I was headed for the stairs, but realizing that it wasn’t the smartest path to take and not wanting to refuse someones kindness, I told the man I was looking for the basement.  He immediately took charge of the situation, saying, “I’ve got you”.

He began directing me to the elevator.  He was actually a pretty good guide; telling me 2 feet before I needed to turn and making sure I had room to walk through groups of people. I have to say, it felt really bizarre and I felt like a fraud of sorts.  I could tell that he thought I was totally blind and I didn’t know how to tell him that all I needed was to be shown the way to the elevator. I felt swept up in the whole scenario and he was my first helpful stranger, so I just went along with him.

He took me all the way to the basement, guided me to a chair and even helped me check in.  That is when it got a little weird.

He assumed that I couldn’t see anything; and why wouldn’t he? I didn’t tell him any different.  When he went to help check me in, the receptionist told him that I had to fill in forms on an iPad and he gave her a look saying he didn’t think I was going to be able to do that.  He really was looking out for me (literally), but I had to tell him at that point that it was ok and I could fill out the questionnaire on my own.  I explained that it is my peripheral vision that is affected but that I can still read.

“Oh,” he said, “so it’s not completely gone.” He looked a little embarrassed. I felt terrible, as he had been so nice to me.  I thanked him profusely for his kindness and he left the waiting room rather quickly.  I wish I could have talked to him more, about RP and about how terrific he had been with me.

His name was Joe, by the way.  How great that my first helpful stranger was named Joe.