Many of the most bizarre events that occur anywhere in the world, on any given day, happen in Florida, the state where I live. Someone told me of a radio program which has a daily trivia question where the host reads a really strange story from the news and the listener has to guess whether the event happened in Florida or Germany. I’ve detailed a few of these strange events in Blind Confidential (the Nazis who couldn’t even agree on who they were trying to kill and other stories). Blind Floridians do not behave any less strangely than the sighted population so, today, I thought I’d write a few Florida anecdotes, mostly about strangeness involving blinks.
The first story, however, involves a sighted DEA agent. I found this story so funny when I heard it on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” that I just had to write it down. A video of the event accompanies the story on the NPR web site; follow the links to “Wait, Wait” and you should have no problem finding it. This DEA agent gave a talk to an auditorium filled with school children. His topic, gun safety, something in which he had some expertise and, just as he said, “I’m probably the only person in this room who knows how to properly handle this weapon,” he shot himself in the leg. Really, his weapon discharged and he shot himself, right there, on a stage while giving a talk about gun safety. This is part of what makes Florida so fun, any day the news, local, statewide or national may contain a bit about one of our residents doing something really strange.
Because of the position I held at FS and from various other events, I know quite a lot of blind people. Thus, when I heard that Howard Stern’s show had hosted a “Blind Girls Show Their Breasts,” beauty contest on his program, I gave it a laugh and thought little more about it. I don’t get the satellite radio system from which Stern broadcasts but a friend of mine and I went out for lunch and he told me about the program. It didn’t surprise me to learn that I knew of the woman who came in second place as, as I said, I have met a lot of blinks. It did, however, surprise me that I didn’t just know her but that we had worked together and that I got to know her a bit. Few things feel stranger than learning that a past colleague had participated in a radio topless contest. Again, I assume that it has to do with Florida.
When I first moved here, I lived on the first floor of a building in a large apartment complex. A young blind couple lived upstairs from me and I often shared taxi rides with the male of the pair. Two things struck me as strange about him. First, he would brag about having sex with his own wife. I can see bragging about having an affair with Liv Tyler but marital bliss should stay in the home.
Secondly, this couple, both blind from birth, seemed to hold the irrational belief that because they had no vision they must, therefore, also be invisible. Thus, they took the concept of “public display of affection” quite a few steps past what the vast majority of reasonably sober adults would find acceptable. So, one day, when the husband and I rode in a taxi together somewhere, he started bragging about the sex he had with his wife the night before. I tried to tune him out until he said, “Yeah, we did it in the apartment complex hot tub…”
“The public hot tub over by the pool,” I asked, somewhat in disbelief.
“Yes and we’re going back tonight,” he replied with great pride in his voice.
I know the chlorine in the hot tub should keep it relatively sanitized but the thought of relaxing my back in a tub where this couple shared bodily fluids disgusted me. So, in the name of cleanliness and for the sake of my neighbors and me, a bottle of Joy dishwashing detergent seemed in order.
The following night an O&M instructor with whom I had grown friendly burst into my apartment, laughing hysterically while I was watching Lou Dobbs. I asked her what had amused her so. After about five minutes of her trying to calm down, she said, “I know you did it!”
“Did what?” I asked with my most innocent look on my face.
“Soaped up the hot tub. The couple upstairs said they went to use it last night and there was a four foot high mountain of bubbles atop it,” she continued breaking into laughter between words. “They said some teenager did it but I know it was you.”
I insisted that I had nothing to do with such a childish prank. So, I lied to my friend. We’ll let this blog entry serve as my public apology for the dishonesty and I’ll assume that the apartment complex won’t hunt me down for the cost of cleaning the mess up.
Blind people shouldn’t, in my personal opinion, work too close to explosives. Blind people who smoke a few packs of cigarettes per day really shouldn’t keep explosives in their home. Remember, though, we are talking about Florida. As in many other states, Florida has a vender program in which blind people can set up a kiosk and sell various items to earn a living better than just SSI. Some blind people sell more than just the inventory they buy from the state in order to make some additional money. Most of these people sell legal items like greeting cards, candies and other nice things that one might purchase when in a hurry. Others, however, see greater profit potential in contraband (you have to credit them for the initiative) and sell marijuana and other high profit items to supplement their income.
One of the more entrepreneurial types, a very heavy smoker, got hold of a large supply of the sort of explosive firecrackers that can blow off a limb. The Fourth of July was approaching so he figured selling explosives from his kiosk would do him rather well. To recap: we have a blind person who smokes sixty cigarettes per day walking around a house filled with quarter sticks of dynamite. Another happening that would only go on in Florida.
I know of at least two blind guys in the marijuana business. I’m not talking about nickel and dime dealers but, rather, experts in horticulture, cultivation and wholesale distribution. One grows the hydroponic chronic with a regional reputation for having the greatest potency in the land. The other has about a dozen greenhouses and has done his own cross breeding to come up with a well known (among certain circles) brand name reefer known for very special properties that its consumers enjoy.
I just wonder a bit about these guys, how do they know if their customers (not known as the most honest people in the world) have given them actual money or some random paper that feels like it? Do they keep a copy of OpenBook and BuckScan nearby just to check that they’re holding real legal tender? How do they know if the person with whom they are talking is holding a weapon and may be prepared to kill them for the enormous value of their inventory? How do they defend themselves against rival dope dealers? How can they tell if the police have arrived? Wholesale drug dealing is a dangerous profession for anyone but it seems like it would present problems for blinks that may be impossible to overcome. But, Florida is the land of sunshine and opportunity and these guys seem willing to take the risks to achieve the American Dream.
I’m actually happy to hear some of these stories. While weird, they do show that some adventurous Floridian blinks have moved beyond the stereotypical behaviors and into areas previously unforeseen as things blinks might do. Lewd, lascivious public nudity, big time pot dealing, stripping on the radio and selling explosives show great progress for our community, previously thought to be so reserved.
I do not recommend any of the behaviors mentioned above. These people are professionals and such actions should not be tried at home. I wonder, though, if someone could start a web site about “Alternative Professions for Blinks,” that include some of these and other non-traditional career choices and where one can find training to pursue such vocations.