header image

Thursday, November 02, 2006

". . . a knack for pissing off the blind . . . "

My sister, Eclectic, wrote a lovely post about a moment in the grocery store parking lot when she was moved to try to help a fellow shopper who appeared to need some assistance. And it prompted me to remember a couple of times when I, too, have felt moved to help my fellow fellow. But it hasn't always gone well. Indeed, as I commented on Eclectic's site, I seem to have a knack for pissing off the blind.

The first time I became aware of this tendency was back in college. I was sitting in the student union at a table in the vending/snack area. Snacking, probably. And I saw a student approaching a soda machine. He was heavily laden with books, and he wore dark glasses and carried a white cane. The cane swayed and bounced ahead of him as he approached the vending area. I wondered for a brief second how a blind person could get the flavor of soda he wanted. And probably within that same second, I decided that . . . he probably couldn't. And being someone who knows how devastating it can be to sip Pepsi when you were craving Coke, I went over to offer the benefit of my considerable sighted soda selecting experience.

"Hi, how you doing? May I get that soda for you?"

"What?!" he snapped at me.

"Your drink. Could I help you out with the machine?"

"You think I can't get my own fucking soda? You think I need YOUR help to get a g*%dam# drink out of a machine? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?"

You don't smack a blind man, Susie. "I am sorry. I didn't intend to offend you." And I went back to my table to watch.

And it was quite a show. He put his money in the machine. Sure enough, he did not need my help. He pushed a button. Sho' nuff. He got the can out of the bin. Sho' nuff. He popped the top. He took a sip . . .

"Son of a BITCH!" His cane located a trash can next to the machines, and he hurled the one-sipped soda into it.

He very efficiently, very competently purchased another soda. He popped the top. He took a sip . . .

"Motherfucker!" And BAM! Into the trash can.

Two more. The fourth time he got the drink he wanted. Still scratching my head over that one.

Then there was the time, years later, I was in downtown Baltimore, at a continuing education seminar for therapists. There was a psychologist sitting behind me, with her seeing-eye dog. She was a delightful little mutt, looked like mostly Corgi, but probably something bigger, too. Sandy-colored, sturdy-looking dog. Her tag said her name was Dammit. Cute. I knew better than to distract her from her duties, so I only talked to her when she was lying under the table, not being asked to do anything work-related. I struck up a conversation with her human, mostly about Dammit, but also about the seminar, work, and such.

When the time came to take a break for refreshments, I saw that the psychologist would do just fine going to the tea table and getting what she needed. Plus, I had learned my lesson about helping blind people get drinks. But what about Dammit? I said to my new friend, "May I get Dammit a bowl of water, while we're having our drinks?"

"What are you insinuating?"

"Uh . . . that she might be thirsty, too? I just meant I'd be happy to go find a bowl to give her a drink . . ."

"I've been taking very good care of my animal for years. I find it insulting that you would think I would deprive her of water . . . "

Deep breath. "It's obvious that you take very good care of her. Well, let me know if . . . "

She "hmphed" and that was that.

The day went on. We had lunch. Afternoon break approached. Dammit had no water. And dammit, I was raised such that . . . well, during my childhood, the closest thing to a religious belief that I was aware of my father having was that YOU ALWAYS PROVIDED FRESH DRINKING WATER FOR YOUR ANIMALS. Nothing made my Dad angrier than for the dogs and cat not to have water. That is still very much ingrained in me. I couldn't stand that dog not having access to water, all day. I had to try again.

"I didn't mean to offend you before . . . but I was wondering . . . do you think Dammit is thirsty now? It's no trouble at all . . . " And this time, Dr. Dammitsmom was ready to tell me the real deal.

"Did you see what it's like outside this hotel?"

I thought for a moment. "It's very busy, a LOT of traffic . . . "

"Right. And did you see any grass? Any place that a dog would want to pee?"

No, I hadn't. And I got it. She was concerned that she couldn't take Dammit out if she needed to go, so she was trying to prevent her from having to go. "You are so right. You'd have to go a ways to find some grass for her. Listen. Let's give her some water, and a few minutes later, I'll run her right down the street to some grass." I waited for her to decapitate me with her cane.

But she didn't. Her care for her dog was greater than her misplaced pride. "You're sure you wouldn't mind . . ."

"Are you KIDDING me? I get to get outta this place for a few minutes and walk a sweet dog? You'd be doing ME a favor!" So that's what happened. That was one thirsty bitch, too.

I know about whatever that gene is that prevents a person from asking for, or even accepting help, when it's offered. That has always been a dominant gene, for me. But it's changing. Because it has to. A couple of days ago I talked to a friend on the phone. A lot of it was about what a wreck my house is. And that I have to get it picked up before I'll even let anyone come in to clean it. She suggested to me that I make a list of the things that I am willing to let other people do. And keep it right by the phone so that when someone says, "Can I do anything?" I can say, "Well, it would help me out if . . ." Because a lot of people really do mean it when they say they'd like to help.

Yesterday I went to Cool School to pick up the work that LG had missed this week. I also needed to pick up wrapping paper, candy, etc., that she had sold for a fundraiser. I thought I could manage to get the work. I had serious doubts about the box of fundraiser products. I was having difficulty with both talking and walking yesterday. After I signed in at the office as a visitor, I saw a mom in the hallway that I knew from Girl Scouts. And I asked her for help. She knew that I've been dealing with something, didn't know what (as I don't know what), but at least I didn't have to start from the beginning with her. I asked her if she would help me get the fundraiser order. She would. And she did. I carried LG's assignments and this other mom carried the box of overpriced giftwrap and cheap sales awards, and we got to my car. I thanked her thoroughly, adding, "You were a Godsend. I may have been able to make it alone, but it would have been a lot more difficult, and I would have been a lot more anxious . . . " Then I gave her the arms-outstretched, fingers waggling, universal symbol for "C'mere, you, and getchoo a great big hug," and she did. And I really was, and am, thankful.

And if you're blind, I really don't ever mean to piss you off.

file under: &Can't Make This Stuff Up &WTF Disease

36 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger Amy said...

Mon Dieu, the guy with the pop! What a show! I saw a guy once (not blind, just angry at the planet) who got mad that his two slices of pizza were stuck together in the bag so he lobbed them at the front window of the pizza store. Cray-ayzee.

Susie. Make that list. Make yourself read from it into the phone. Anyone who helps anyone deserves help too. Times ten.
Mwah.

 
Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

*thinks the one-sipper drink-tosser was searching for the flavor he liked and tossed each until he found it*

Pride, lovely pride.

 
Blogger WILLIAM said...

"I was sitting in the student union at a table in the vending/snack area. Snacking, probably."


I am glad you weren't vending.

 
Blogger Effie said...

I went through college to be a Sign Language Communicator and before I started my course I had some really bad preconceived misconceptions about the Deaf. Wow. I was so glad that our profs were understanding of me! I know I stuck my foot in my mouth (or in my hands when signing?) on MANY occasions!

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Hey, Susie... *arms-outstretched, fingers waggling, universal symbol for "C'mere, you, and getchoo a great big hug"*

You didn't let your first experience stop you from trying to help others.

You didn't let the second experience stop you from trying to help the same person.

Love you!

 
Anonymous LadyBug said...

I'm in the refuses to ask for help camp, too. Why is it so easy to offer help to others, but so difficult to accept it when others offer? Because, really, isn't it a blessing for us when we help someone? And why would we deprive someone else of that blessing?

I like the list-by-the-phone idea. Love, hugs, and prayers to you, Miss Susie.

 
Blogger Erin said...

I'm pretty sure the blind guy at the soda machine pushed the top button, then the next button down, then the next button down and so on until he got the soda he wanted. However, it would have been cheaper for him to let you help him! :) Pride can be very expensive...

 
Blogger mrtl said...

Once in a class we had the opportunity to ask a blind person about stuff like this. She said it could never hurt to offer help. Set up?

 
Blogger Traci said...

There are so many one liners that popped into my head while reading however I'll just give you the most important one...

I love you.

 
Blogger Carlos said...

Maybe he was a very proud man but I think we should try to understand blind people. They're special.

 
Blogger dashababy said...

Awwww, that was a good one, not insinuating that some of your posts are less than good, alrighty then. That was funny though, thanks for the laughs.
I'm glad you are able to let others help you, it makes them feel good. You're awesome.

 
Anonymous Daphne said...

oh man. you are too sweet. See, it's time you let all that generosity and big-heartedness come repay you a little bit.

 
Blogger Naomi said...

Does your blog come in braille?

Sorry, had to ask. It is amazing what some people think you mean when you say something. I offered help (to a very busy person) not thinking she COULDN'T do it, or that she should use any able body around to get it done, but because I actually wanted to learn a bit about it, how to do it etc, and she nearly took my head off! (and not because I'd be making more work for her!)

Life!

But today I had some very kind words from someone that nearly had me in tears- and I don't cry very often.

I'm glad you were persistent with the doggie and water. I'm glad that worked out so well.

 
Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

That soda guy was a dick. What a way to behave when confronted by the kindness of others.

 
Anonymous sharkey said...

Soda Machine Man deserved what he got with the wrong soda flavors. He must've been one unhappy guy to react to you the way he did.

The list near the phone is a good idea. Then let me know your phone number, and I'll call and ask how I can help. That way you'll get some practice. And if there are any items that can be done long-distance, I'm in!

 
Blogger Susie said...

amy, people throwing away good soda and pizza slices . . . tsk tsk tsk

mrB, that's what he was doing; wouldn't have been my method, but to each his own.

william, hee Yea, the "vending" was another time, whole 'nother post ;)

effie, I didn't know that about you. Is that what you do now?

ck, you always make me sound so nice. What are you wearing?

ladybug, I can see you've given the whole thing some thought, as have I. And you're right, we feel good helping others, so why not let other people feel that way? Easier said than done, though, isn't it?

erin, pride can be expensive, indeed. I even thought about, why not offer the unwanted soda to someone else or . . . just so pointless.

mrtl, no, she was probably being honest. People with disabilities have the same personality quirks as everyone else.
I mean, the behavior of the people I mentioned had more to do with their personalities than with blindness, I think.

traci, I like that one-liner. Love you, too :)

carlos, I'm sure there's more behind your comment than I can tell. Special, yes, as is everyone. I still think his behavior had more to do with his temperament than with his blindness.

dashababymama, you're awesome yourself. Even if you are over here telling me my posts usually suck.

daphne, I'm not really a sweet person, I just play one on this blog :)

naomi, it might come in braille :) Or, as is the case with one particular person I know, a sighted person might read this drivel aloud to a blind person. I'm glad you had some kind words today. They really make a big difference.

kranki, I can always count on you to get to the heart of the matter :)

sharkey, yep, electively unhappy. He didn't have to be that unhappy! Ah, well. My list. I'll work on that. Between my hoarseness and my slurring, I was thinking recently if anyone wants to talk to me -- or more to the point, LISTEN to me -- they'd better hurry up, because WTF is getting worse. So I was going to announce that. But I think, no, I'm going to continue to count on WTF getting better, and being able to talk for a very long time. Maybe when WTF is gone I will post my # and have a big ol' conference call :)

 
Anonymous RzDrms said...

great stories! thanks for sharing. :) (and i had no idea that Eclectic is your sister...did i miss something? where have i been?!)

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Really Susie, you are very very nice, but if you keep asking me what I'm wearing, people are gonna start to talk... unless you mean it in a "Girl! What the HELL are you wearing?!" kinda way...

 
Blogger The other me said...

Fabulous, as always, my mum helped me once when she said " you know when you help someone out and you get thet truly great feeling?"
"yes"
" well , who are you to prevent someone else from feeling that great?"
Lesson learned, by accepting help when we need it, we are enabling others to receive blessings, Hoorah...I have ironing...anyone????

 
Blogger Nina said...

Even those of us with sight are blind in some ways. I don't know why those of us who help others have such a hard time excepting help.
I'm glad you asked for help. Even though it is hard to do . . . hugs to you.

 
Blogger Ortizzle said...

A blind person who would be offended at someone as tactful and thougtful as you has way too much resentment.

I taught English to the blind for 3 years. Even learned Braille so I could correct their work without needing a "Translator." Never had one of those awkward problems, but maybe the blind in Spain are less touchy. In fact, I was always concerned that I might offend, and they always accepted help graciously, even though they didn't need it. Or if I was helping in the "wrong" way, such as grabbing their arm to help them cross the street (you have to offer your arm for them to take so they are guided by your movements; basically, you become a human cane!)

Anyway, you done good with the dog. Dammit. :-)

 
Blogger Effie said...

well, no--that's not what I'm doing right now. I'd like to, but I didn't continue on for my interpreter certificate--it was another 3 years and then 3 years before you'd actually be recognized enough in the Deaf community to be working. I'm sure it would have been worth it in the long run, but my wrists gave out (tendonitis) from practicing too much and I took my certificate and said "that's enough school for me". Strangely enough, that summer I started going out with my now hubby, was engaged by the fall and married by the spring--there would have been a completely different outcome in my life had I continued on....I never would have met my hubby! And I can't imagine life without him....yup--I'm a sap, but a happy sap! I'm just clerical staff now, but it's good.

 
Blogger Susie said...

raz, how are you? Been thinking of you. Eclectic is my sister in an adopted blogsister kind of way. Bucky and Squirl adopted both of us, a while back. Just pretend. Neither she nor I have IRL sisters, so this works :)

ck, mmmm...nope, I mean it in a "people will talk" kinda way :)

t.o.m., you always make me smile. And your mom is a wise woman.

nina, I think that "helper" becomes so much a part of our identities that "helpee" doesn't feel right. But the truth is, over the course of a lifetime, there's a time to be both.

ortizzle, you have such an interesting life, and stories. Thank you for saying such nice things.

effie, you happy sap! Sounds like you were doing just the right thing at the right time; you know how that part of the story ends, so you know your choices were right :)

 
Blogger Squirl said...

Never give up helping, that's our Susie. Too bad some people can't appreciate a warm, kind gesture. Good thing they're blind cuz I might be tempted to use a different gesture. ;)

WTF is going to get better. We still haven't met IRL and, Dammit, I expect that.

Love ya, Sis1

 
Anonymous Undercover Mutha said...

I don't know how it is that you can make me laugh so hard and then cry right there at the end. I wish it had been me to give you that hug.

 
Blogger eclectic said...

I'm not sure what tickled me more, the story or William and Circus Kelli?! Y'all are killing me! So, this list of stuff you'd let people help you with, is hosting the Fairchild family for a getaway on it? 'Cause then I could give you the universal sign for c'mere and getchoo a great big hug, which would really be far more for my benefit than for yours. Oh, and for the record, both my dad AND my husband share your paranoia about fresh drinking water for the pets. My water bill is insane as a result, but everyone is well-hydrated. Love you!

 
Blogger Platypus said...

I can't believe that guy with the drinks - madness. Now don't you ever be afraid to ask for help - or to accept it when it's offered. You know we all love you! So sorry WTF is dragging you down. We're all praying for you/sending our love. x

 
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

You are a genuinely good one, Susie.

 
Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

*waggles fingers in universal symbol for "Let me squeeze your boobs"*

Oh, wait. We're blogsisters, and that's just wrong. Neither of us lives far enough south for that to be acceptable behavior.

 
Blogger Jim said...

OK, the guy with the soda - I felt kinda happy that he didn't get what he wanted the first three times. Serves him right for being a self-righteous prick (don't have to be 'normal' to be an asshole).

You are a sweet woman, Susie darlin'. If I ever go blind, remind me to come look you up to help me get my soda.

 
Blogger Susie said...

squirl, I look forward to meeting, too. I still think about having a Farewell, WTF! party someday :)

mutha, see comment to squirl. one of these days :)

eclectic, better be careful what you offer, we might show up on your doorstep. I am well-hydrated now, too, drinking from the most beautiful glasses you ever did see ;)

platypus, yea, there are a lot of people I can't believe, these days. Thanks for the love and prayers. Don't know what I'd do without them.

hoss, you just think that because you can see. If you were blind, I'd totally piss you off ;)

bucky, hee, I'll bet you know ALL the universal symbols. Hey, there's a blog post for you -- with pictures :)

jim, you got it; and if I ever go blind, please buy me a Coke and water my dog :)

 
Blogger little sister said...

You're so sweet. Can't believe the soda-tosser. Must have cost him a couple bucks or so? Whack.

The only time I offered help and it was accepted was when I worked in the financial aid office of Indiana University. The place was packed, and there was the guy with the cane and no one paid attention. I approached him and asked him his last name so I'd know which one of the counselors was his. He told me, but then I had to ask, "What's the easiest way to do this? I've never helped a blind person navigate his way through a crowd?" He told me to let him take my arm and lead him to the office. Obvious, now that I think about it, but the crowd (and a crowd of financial aid inquirers is one of the angriest of mobs). Also, I learned a really cool side arm block when I took karate with mi hija, so I was gently but firmly pushing peeps out of our way, and I got him to his counselor's office in a couple of minutes.

On the way, he complimented my perfume (which was 8e Huile by Yves Rocher, btw), and my boss complimented me on how I just took charge.

Obviously very different experiences from yours, but it assured me I was capable of helping if needed.

still diagnosis on WTF disease?

 
Blogger Carlos said...

Maybe. But I think our lifes build our temperament. What kind of life has our blind man lived?

 
Blogger Susie said...

lilsis, very impressive, and I'm not a bit surprised. You always present as a very competent person.
And, no, my dear, no diagnosis on WTF yet. Can you believe it? I have always aspired to be a woman of mystery, but I'm afraid I've gone too far this time ;)

carlos, my friend, this discussion may be too complex and too interesting to do it justice in blog comments. I think I understand what you're saying; at the same time, if I had allowed the events of my life (most of which have never been revealed on this blog) to build my temperament, I would be quite unrecognizable as compared to who I am here. Life circumstances certainly make . . . loud suggestions as to what our temperament and our behavior will be, but I believe we always have the ability to talk back, to choose our responses to life.

 
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

My experience has taught me that, for the most part, people with, uh, special needs don’t appreciate “help” unless they ask for it. I learned that from a college friend who went blind while we were at the University of Kentucky. Of course, there are exceptions. A few years later I had a conversation with that same friend, who by then had become the coordinator for blind students at the University. He said that a group of blind students and he usually went swimming at the YMCA pool each Thursday after the pool was closed to the public. On evening they enter the pool room and were about to dive in when the janitor yelled at them: “What do you thin you’re doing! Can’t you see that the pool’s been drained for cleaning?” My friend said he sincerely appreciated that “help.”

 


Post a Comment

<< Home