Throughout the years since losing my vision, I have gathered a number of advantages that that having a vision impairment provides. Today, I will share some of them with you:
- When I first moved to Florida, I had a neighbor from the UK named Eleanor. She drank cheap wine to excess but, otherwise, she spoke with great intellect, wit and, even when thoroughly intoxicated, she maintained a level of dignity (until, of course, she passed out). One day, Eleanor and I walked across the street from our apartment complex to the local Win Dixie grocery store. In her very British manner, she said, “Day-glo running shorts, lime green halter top, three hundred fifty pounds, you Americans have no shame.”
While her description made me cringe, I did realize the benefit of not seeing this myself and, perhaps, living with the psychological scars forever.
So, advantage one: Blind people do not need to see the really ugly people in the world. This comes in handy more often than one would think as, especially at beaches that fill up with tourists raised on junk food; one never needs to see anyone named Max who, although massively overweight, chooses to wear a Speedo with his belly hanging over it and about a dozen gold chains to adorn his extraordinarily hairy chest. If Max has a date, undoubtedly, the first thought that crosses one’s mind is, “Money can buy anything…”
- Blind people never need to insult their significant others by answering those difficult questions like, “How do I look in this outfit?” By choice, everyone in my world (unless described by a sightie who just insists on ruining my picture of the world) is good looking. All of the women are pretty and the men are all looking sharp.
- Blind people have far greater opportunities to grope and fondle people whom they find attractive. We have a built in excuse for bumping into people, accidentally placing our hands on parts of another’s body that our society insists we avoid and, when we say, with some false shock in our voices, “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean too…” the typical response tends to tell us not to apologize and, when we’re especially lucky, we get a laugh and encouragement to continue groping.
Sighted people, especially men, very rarely avoid being slapped for such actions. In this case, I think such behavior is actually part of leveling the playing field. Sighted people, men and women, gay and straight, married or single, look and sometimes even leer and drool at others whom they find attractive. I think, therefore, it is our right as blinks to receive an accessible, tactile view of those whom our sighted friends might leer at. I also think that “adult entertainment centers,” should be tested for accessibility to ensure their blind patrons are receiving the full Braille version of the content their sighted counterparts are getting. Nudie bars are, after all, places of public accommodation.
- Following the concept in item two, blind people never need to say that a bride, baby, child or puppy looks as truly hideous as anyone but their mother or owner whose opinion, colored by unconditional love, cannot perceive what the rest of the world thinks.
I once attended a wedding in Westchester County between the daughter of some very rich guy and the friend of the woman who brought me as her date. We of course, sat in the groom’s side of the room.
The invitations for this wedding, sent out by the bride’s family, engraved clear Lucite plaques with a silk rose attached, the most extravagant party invitation I can imagine, was received by what seemed like a thousand people.
The menu, which came along with the invitation, in case any of the guests, may have dietary restrictions, started with fresh strawberries in Dom. The meal grew more elaborate from there. I couldn’t refuse this date as I really wanted to witness an event of such overt decadence.
After the ceremony, outdoors and brief, performed by a local Rabbi, we went under the tent to our assigned seats. The people seated with us had also come from the groom’s side of the pair and none had previously met the bride. The gentleman, maybe named Max, seated beside me said, through a very Jewish/New York accent, “No wonder he’s spending so much, he had to buy the bride’s gown at a camping supply store. Damn, that girl could get a job working at the carnival.”
I could say that I thought the bride was beautiful and didn’t have to lie.
- Sometimes, a person, out of unnecessary charity, will do something nice for a blind person that also benefits the people around him. Last night, for instance, my wife and I went to hear Chick Corea at a local theater. The usher, noticing I carried a white cane and looking up at the long staircase to the seats in the back we had that our tickets said belonged to us, decided, instead, to bring us into the seats held for guests, right down in front. I could have enjoyed the music from any part of the room but Susan got to enjoy a great view too, just because of the bizarre belief that some sighted people have that blindness effects one’s feet as well as our eyes.
- A friend of mine described an evening when he had drunk a lot of beer at an Atlanta nightclub. As will happen to anyone who has consumed a large volume of a fluid, he had to pee really bad. When he entered the men’s room, a two seater, and discovered that both the stall and urinal had patrons already, he realized he couldn’t wait any longer and started to pee in the sink. As the other two guys started to emerge, one started to say something but was silenced by his buddy with, “It’s ok, he’s blind.”
Hence, we can do things that others cannot because they don’t understand us at all. It’s kind of like having the “Get Out of Jail Free” card when playing Monopoly.
- Blind people get lots of cool stuff for free. If you go to your local public library and compare its catalogue to that of NLS, RFBD or other audio books for the blind organizations, one, unless they live in the Boston area or use the main branch of the New York Public Library, will find that our selection is much larger and, unlike our sighted friends, the tapes will be delivered right to our front door and we can mail them back for free. To one who loves literature, this service seems incredible and, often, especially here in Florida, I find that my library access is often the envy of my friends.
8. I don’t know if this practice only happens at the Empire State Building but the last time I entered the great edifice, my friend Steve and I were there as purely tourists. The employee n charge of running the place wouldn’t let us pay for tickets, brought us straight to the front of the line and sent us to the top. I couldn’t see the view but Steve got a free ride and had no complaints. Actually, this happened to me at the United Nations too. Maybe it’s a New York thing.
- One perk I appreciate greatly is that often, just because I am blind, airport personnel let me wait in the first class lounge where I can enjoy free beverages, snacks and Wi Fi and, often, if there is an available seat, bump me up to the first class section on the flight. This is really nice if I am flying to India or Singapore or some other really distant part of the planet. They also encourage me to board before everyone else so I can get extra pillows and blankets, if you have a boney white ass like mine and you will be in the air for many hours, the extra padding saves one from days of feeling numb from the buttocks down. The extra blankets are nice as I always find I feel cold while flying and, for no reason apparent to me, airline blankets seem to have been designed for dwarfs.
- Although I do not drink nor use illicit drugs anymore, no one ever asks me to be the designated driver. In fact, no one ever asks any blink to stay sober so his friends can party down while they sit forlorn, drinking diet cokes and listen to his friends get increasingly stupid as the night goes on. I can only imagine that “designated drivers” get bored when the old argument about natural versus artificial turf and its relative effects on the game of baseball comes up for the millionth time. I guess, though, that the designated driver is far less likely to end up with his head shaved or with a tattoo the following day but one can only assume that avoiding such hazards cannot possibly make up for the boredom of sitting with one’s intoxicated friends.
So, this is the top ten list I came up with this morning. Please send me your favorite gifts of blindness so we can assemble a comprehensive list.