Tamar and I are nearing the end of our time together and soon, she will leave Zelda and I on our own. I tried to think of ways to keep doing the lessons, but it is clear that she has given me all the tools I need and now it is up to me to implement them. Today was our second to last lesson
Tamar is at the bottom of the stairs wearing a beautiful sunhat; black with a cherry blossom design across the brim. She is, as ever, cheerful and warm. We have a plan to go to the grocery store today and she also wants to practice street crossings, so we get on our way and start walking North toward Sunset.
I am getting the feeling that street crossings are what I should be most diligent about and also be practicing on a daily basis, whether or not I have actual errands to do. About 3/4 of the way up the block, Tamar asks me to close my eyes and listen for the traffic and what it sounds like as we get closer. It isn’t only the engines that grow louder as we approach the corner, but the sound of gravel under tires and dips in the road that rattle the underbellies of the cars. I also feel the air speed up as the force of the cars manipulates the wind. And then Zelda drops off the curb.
We come to the first street crossing, review scanning techniques and the timing of flagging the cane with scanning. Tap and look left for the danger car (right hand turner). Tap and look to the middle for left hand turners. Tap and look right for any cars in the far lane that may sneak up to turn right before you get to the other side of the street. I thought I had this stuff down, I mean it is just logical, but I feel like I haven’t been doing it at all when I am alone. Why is it so bloody hard to implement things that actually make so much sense? I feel like an idiot, but I press on and try to get the flow.
We come to the second street and this one actually has a light; I stand on the corner for a while with my eyes closed, getting used to the sound of traffic and identifying my own location based on the sounds. And then we cross and continue 2 more blocks until we are at the crossing to the grocery store. Tamar teaches me a new thing here: Even though I have to cross the street to the left, I proceed forward with my eyes closed until Zelda finds the curb in front of me to the East. To find the right location for crossing in a northern direction, I follow the curb to the left and swing Z back and forth, always keeping the curb in her range. I am tempted to just keep Z to the right and follow the curb continuously, but if I don’t swing her to the left, I won’t know when I have come to any obstacles on the left, including the pole that houses the cross walk button. In the middle of the turn from East to North, the curb becomes flat and this throws me at first; is Zelda in the street? But, Tamar reminds me of the wheel chair access at most intersections and instructs me to move further onto the sidewalk at this point, while continuing to swing Zelda and maintain an idea of the location of the curb. When the ground slopes back up and I find the curb again, I am relieved and feel safe. I swing my cane to the left and make contact with the light pole and Tamar tells me to do it again in the opposite direction. I do this about 6 more times and then we get to cross the street toward the market.
I have actually been to the market several times with Zelda, so I feel pretty confident that I have it down. The parking lot is tricky because there is no obvious pedestrian walkway into the store (you have to walk through the parking lot), but there are bumpy yellow grates to indicate when you have come to a place that requires looking out for traffic or that you have cleared the traffic and are safe. It is just about being diligent, looking in all directions and making the cane visible before crossing over the lane. I have been super careful about this since I was hit by a reversing car in this exact parking lot.
We make it safely across and go into the store; Tamar stops me in the entrance and tells me that I need to hold Zelda closer to the base of her grip and keep her closer to me when I am in places like the grocery store. Oops. I totally haven’t been doing this. I have been the selfish blind person who has left it all up to the sighted people. I have been in Ralphs (that is our store), cane fully extended and swinging to my heart’s content. Tamar shows me that by doing that, I have been blocking isles and really not watching out for other people at all. I can’t always leave it all up to Zelda, especially at the grocery store where people are always off in their own foodie worlds. I will be more courteous in the future.
We take a short spin through Ralphs and then head to the pet store and home. As usual, I was exhausted and happy at the end of our lesson, but also a little sad because I knew that the next would be the last.