Years ago, in my 20’s, carless, I got around Seattle on the bus. That’s when I first learned to be blind.
I’m sure many of you have experienced this. There’s a crazy/weird/drunk/creepy person making a loud fuss of some kind on the bus. You sit in your brown vinyl seat and gaze out the window, or straight ahead. If the fusser is in front of you, you look over their shoulder, or you close your eyes and pretend to doze, even though you would never really go to sleep on the bus. It’s an environment that demands vigilance.
When you reach your stop you get up. If you have to walk by the fusser to get to the door you do so quickly and silently, without even a minute glance in his or her direction. You see nothing amiss, you hear nothing but the turning of the wheels. You are the Tommy of Metro Transit.
Once I saw a woman who neglected to be blind. She asked the young man with the boom box blaring some vile rap tune with bitch-this and ho-that to please turn it down. She had little kids with her. “So my kids don’t have to hear that, ok? For my kids.”
As you might expect, the young man did not take kindly to her suggestion. He informed her in language gleaned from his musical choices that the kids would be hearing that stuff no matter what, because that’s the kind of world we live in, so what difference did it make?
Another young man, also forgetting to be blind, stood up and came to the woman’s defense, bravely, I thought, though ultimately to no effect. Boom box guy continued to curse, declare the world an unchangeable cesspool, and blare his foul tunes. I was certain the irony was lost on him, but I didn’t say so. Tommy.
A few months ago I gave Tigger (10 at the time) her first lesson in Mandatory Urban Blindness (MUB). We were walking down the Ave and came upon a man having a raving, screaming fit at a bus stop. Before we got too close, I coached her on the proper response. “You just walk on by. Don’t get too close to him but don’t be obvious about moving away from him, either. Don’t stare, don’t remark, and whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.” We passed by him, he continued raving, taking no notice of us. Maybe if we don’t see him, he can’t see us either.
This afternoon I wheeled my grocery cart to my minivan in the parking lot of a suburban store. A woman got out of a car near mine and climbed into the backseat of a car next to mine. I opened my trunk and began transferring bags of groceries. By the time I slammed the trunk shut (about 20 seconds later) the woman had gotten out of the back seat and returned to her car. I guess it was a drug transaction…what else could it have been? But I can’t say for sure. I didn’t look.
I have a deal with all the crazy/weird/drunk/creepy people. I don’t see you, and you don’t bother me. Ok?