I am at the halfway point in my O&M training; 6 weeks with Zelda and I still have such a long way to go.
Tamar and I started our lesson today back in the cafeteria, with the model and the toy cars. We reviewed the car positions and terms and I talked to her about my week. Then, she showed me, using the street crossing model, how to best use my remaining vision to cross safely. Everything Tamar teaches me adheres to a systematic pattern. She takes the random out of the equation so confidence can step in. It works and is all pretty simple, just a lot to remember.
The visual scanning while crossing the street follows a logical progression, which honestly would help sighted pedestrians (minus the cane parts, obviously) as well. It goes like this: You position yourself at the corner where you want to cross, identifying where the curb is and holding your cane out to the left so it is visible – Light turns green – You make sure that the cars in your near side parallel lane are going straight – You flag your cane 3 times (more about this later) – You check that your danger car (always the car to your left) has seen you and determine if they are turning right – If you feel confident that the car isn’t turning, you step into the cross walk and look left, scanning the first lanes you cross in front of (are they stopped?) – Half way across the first half of the crosswalk, you look toward the middle of the intersection, scanning for left turners – At half way across, you focus on the cars just right of center in front of you, keeping an eye out for right turners – and, there you are, safely across the street. Tamar emphasized two things; if you don’t feel confident that it is safe to cross, wait until the next light, and the most danger is always to your left.
We worked with the model and the toy cars for a while and Tamar drew me some diagrams to take home, and I thought we were done for the day. No such luck. She felt I was ready to go outside and give the actual cross walks a try. I wasn’t afraid -Tamar was with -me but I did have some performance anxiety. As we walked out of the Braille Institute together, for the first time I might add, I tried to remember everything she had taught me in the 6 weeks I have known her. I know she wasn’t judging me, but I like her and I want to be a good student.
We went out to Vermont; super busy street, lots of traffic, lots of pedestrians, crumbling curbs, typical L.A.. Did you forget about flagging the cane? I wish I could. It is pretty much the shining example of why I have been anxious about Zelda. It is a screaming spotlight on my existence. The sole purpose of flagging your cane is to draw a momentum of attention to yourself, for safety of course. So, I am sure you get the picture: flagging your cane means you tap it on the ground and bring it up into the air in front of you (high enough so people can really see it) before tapping again. Repeat 3 times. I may as well be standing on the street corner shouting to the world that I am there. Talk about jumping full force out of the shadows.
I found my position and used the visual scanning techniques and flagged my cane; I did this across all four sides of an intersection in both directions. I think I did pretty well, although I apparently wasn’t lifting my cane high enough while flagging. No surprise there.
I know that having and using Zelda makes the world a safer place for me. I know that the visibility that Z gives me makes the world a safer place for me. But, it is hard to get over a lifetime of approaching any kind of attention with anxiety and dread. I have always been the girl who no-one could see and now, I am becoming the blind lady in the neighborhood, who everyone sees because I can’t see them. That is some serious fucking irony for you.
I better start embracing my new reality, because next week, Tamar is coming to my neighborhood, and I don’t think she will be cool with us just staying in the apartment.