12 March 2006

The Blind Leading The Sighted

My cat Martha, as some of you may be aware (because I talk about my cats far more than anyone over the age of 6 should), is blind and a dwarf. Apparently, the dwarfism might be the reason she's blind. At the
Cat Charity Boat where I got her,They didn't even realize she was blind, even though she has full on "Master Po" eyes.
Image hosting by Photobucket Everyone at the Poezenboot thought she was just really old and had a bit of glaucoma, because she can pass as a seeing-eyed cat. When you talk to her, she'll look right at you. When she hears you in a room, she'll walk right toward you and jump up in your lap. It was my vet who pointed out that no, she's actually quite young, and yes, actually she is blind. You can swing a bit of string in front of her and she'll have no reaction. But if that string makes even a whisper of a noise, Image hosting by Photobucket!!!!! She'll have it quicker than the old guy closed his fists over the pebbles.

Hence, Martha gets really upset with us when we move things. Her sandbox is in one place, her food is in another, and please don't go re-arranging for the sake of Feng Shui.

We have a new cat, Papa Steve, who has been staying in the room with her until his "giblet"ectomy which is next week. He's about the size of a small wolf, a big fluffy guy who built up a lot of muscle from his days on the streets. I'm pretty sure he's got tattos under all that fluff, but I'm sure as hell not going to try to shave him to find out. So the other day, Papa Steve was sitting on the floor halfway between where Martha was sleeping and her food. She got up to have a snack and literally bumped right into Papa Steve. She stepped on him, thought better of it, and decided to go around him. He looked at her with absolute admiration for her moxie. She doesn't tiptoe around or expect sympathy for being blind - she just gets on with things.

Years ago, when I was living in San Francisco, I used to see this blind guy in a suit on the same bus I would take home. He didn't use a cane, but he had the wonky eyes so, you know, you could tell. But he walked really quickly. On several occasions I saw him fall off the curb, only to get back up and start walking again. Another time he walked right into the side of our bus. On this occasion, as soon as he was seated on the bus, I got out of my seat and went to sit next to him.

"Why don't you just use a cane?" I asked him.

"Why don't you just use a cane?" He retorted.

From then on, we got talking. He had gone blind as a young boy, and his parents had always stressed that he shouldn't feel sorry for himself. So they didn't help him with anything. You want the bathroom? Find it. You want a sandwich? Figure out how to make it. It sounded pretty harsh, but he swore it made him the person he was today. He was a lawyer, and doing alright for himself by the looks of things.

"But aren't you scared of falling down?" I asked.

"Why should I be scared of it? I do it all the time." Fair enough point.

But I wondered about practical things like walking down the street or crossing the road.

"Listen," He said, "Cars make noises. When you get to a busy intersection, ain't no mystery where the traffic is."

"But aren't you afraid you're at a disadvantage and that much more vulnerable to getting hit by a car?"

"Sighted people get hit by cars all the time. Explain that one to me."


He took me to lunch one time, and when he took the bills out of his wallet (hey - he was the hotshot Lawyer, he could pick up the tab!) he "felt" me staring at him.

"I fold them differently." He laughed.


"The bills. I fold twenties in one way, tens in another. That's how I tell them apart."

"Well how do you know people aren't ripping you off when they give you your change?"

"Sometimes you just have to trust people." He said. "It's a whole lot easier that way."

We didn't always talk about blind stuff when we hung out, but he indulged my fascination now and then.

"Go on. I can tell you're dying to ask me another blind question."

I was. "OK. Why don't you wear sunglasses?"

This one brought about peals of laughter. "Why the fuck would I need sunglasses? I can stare right at the sun for hours if I want and never know the difference!"

"But," I said, "I guess I kinda thought blind people were supposed to wear sunglasses so everyone would know they were blind."

He laughed again. "People just want blind people to wear sunglasses so they don't have to look at their goofy eyes."

"No!" I said, hemming and hawing and feeling embarrassment on behalf of sighted society, "It's just so we, you know, can tell from a distance--"

"Bullshit!" He shouted, laughing,"I'm not wearing sunglasses, and you knew I was blind. How did you know that?"

"Well, you walked into the side of a bus."

"Aaaand?" He prompted.

"And you've got goofy looking eyes." I conceded.

"Bingo!" He shouted. And with that, he threw a carrot in the air, catching it perfectly as it cascaded back down.

08 March 2006

I was a teenage suicide

At 18, I had long since dropped out of highschool (because I found other teenagers annoying), got my equivilency, and was awaiting starting at college in Denver in the fall. So meanwhile, I had to have a job because my mother was refusing to buy my beer.

I had already worked at a Mc Donalds, at 16 (Sheer Hell - I gained 20 pounds in a month); an Exxon Station, pumping gas (My immediete supervisor was a practicing Satanist - long story); and a dry-cleaners where I had been in charge of going through the pockets of all the clothes being brought in - the highlight of this was when I found about a quarter ounce of cocaine in the pocket of a suit...my supervisor insisted I hand it to her so she could "turn it in"....oddly, we never did hear from the police.

So when I got a job working at a local clothing and accessories shop, I was thrilled. This was class, this was sophistication. I'd be able to casually lean on the glass countertops and flick my hair back with all the other cool girls who worked there.

It was the morning of my first day at work and I wanted everything to be perfect. This meant waking up extra morning to blowdry my hair straight. And way back then, that's what we had to do, kids. We didn't have those high-fallootin' ceramic straighteners or smoothing serum. For us it was an hour-long blowdry at close range followed by half a can of AquaNet, extra strength. For a frizzy girl like me to have straight hair back in my day, we'd have to shellack (sp?) it to the hardness of a marble coffeetable. Low-flying birds had to watch their step. You kids today don't know how Goddamned easy you've got it.

And besides, this was Virginia in the summertime, meaning the humidity is on a par with a rainforest - a rainforest where all the exotic birds have really frizzy hair. Straight haired people just don't get the humidity thing. They try to commiserate with me saying things like, "Oh, I know what you mean! In humidity my hair gets so lanky!".....Lanky? You don't know from pain, sistah. Us frizzy girls step into the humidity, people are looking at us saying, "Is that a clown wig?"

So, given the humidity, I was having to take extra time blowdrying my hair into something smooth and flickable. I was worried I was running a bit late, and it was hot and I hate hot weather, and on top of that having had the hairdryer on for an hour it was even hotter. Damn. I was not in a pretty mood. Then the hairdryer kept shutting itself down (probably to save itself from meltdown)...I'd have to wait a few seconds for it to cool off and then resume, and it was slowing things down and making me even more frustrated. THEN, while this was going on, the mirrored medicine cabinet door kept swinging open. (Had it expanded because of the heat?)...Ugh! I slammed it shut, then went back to blowdrying. It opened again. Again I slammed it shut. Then the damned hairdryer sputtered off. No! No! No! The mirrored cabinet swung open once more, and with all my anger, I slammed it shut. Crash! The mirror shattered under my hand, shards of glass imbedding themselves in my wrist...I stared at it for a horrible split second, suddenly becoming aware that one of the shards had severed a main artery. Blood was gushing out. I mean absolutely squirting out, in an arc. I went into a panic: Oh God, I'm going to die. These are my last moments...

I ran around the apartment searching for the phone - Must get help. Must get help. My mother had just recently had cream-colored carpeting installed all over the apartment. I had told her she was crazy, but she had insisted, and consequently life had become a take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door Hell. I paused briefly at the bathroom door thinking twice about the damage I was about to do, but this was my life, here, and if I politely died in the bathroom, blood would have leaked into the hallway anyway. So I ran down the cream-colored hallway, spurt spurt spurt spurt.....Into the livingroom ....spurt ....spurt ...search...search, spurt search search...finally I found the phone and dialled emergency services.

"What is the nature of your emergency?" A voice answered.

In my panic, I could barely form a coherant sentence. "I'm bleeding all over the place! I'm dying! Send an ambulance!"

"Why are you bleeding?" The voice calmly asked - how do they stay so calm? Are they just bored because this is all they hear all day? Was she flicking through True Stories magazine while pretending to be interested in my problems?

"I've cut my wrist!" I screamed, "I've cut my wrist!"

Suddenly she became inetersted. She told me to try to be calm, to use something to stop the bleeding. Help was on the way.

Try to be calm? I was dying. On my mother's carpeting.

In practically no time at all, the paramedics arrived. They observed the bloodbath, cleaned the wound and put a sealing thingy on it. Through all the drama, I barely noticed the arrival of two police officers. As the paramedic was winding gauze around my wrist, I looked at them. Why were they here? Did they think I'd been attacked? One of them walked over to me.

"How are you doing, dear?" He said in a kindly voice. "Can you tell me why you did this?"

I didn't understand what he was getting at.

"My hairdryer stopped working." I said, "My hair dryer just shut off and I've got really frizzy hair."

He looked concerned. "You did this because you don't like your hair?"

"Well, yes." I responded. He was right in a roundabout sort of way. "Yes. I hate my hair."

The two police officers exchanged looks.

"We'd like to get you some help." The first officer said. "Would you like that?"

"Yes, absolutely." I said, wondering why police officers would have hair straightening equipment.

It took quite a few pointed questions by the officers for me to figure out that they thought I had attempted suicide. In order to get them to believe my version of things, I had to walk them through everything. I showed them the shattered mirror and clicked the dead hairdryer on and off several times. But I think the clincher was when they considered my hair; half straight, half Bozo.

But by now I was late for my first day of work. I could hardly be asked to walk what with the considerable bloodloss and all, so I convinced the policemen to drop me off there. I think they kind of wanted to anyway, just to check out my story.

So that was how my first day at work started. I emerged, half an hour late, from the back of a police car with frizzy hair on one side of my head and smooth on the other, and sporting a heavily bandaged wrist. Two weeks later I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. When I returned to work a few days later with a swollen face, I accidentally took a triple dose of pain medication and ended up collapsing in the middle of the shop. They got me to go to the stockroom where I lay on the floor alternately giggling and crying until the paramedics arrived. It being a small town, the same police officers were with them.

The police officer from before walked over to me and stared down at me where I was laying on the floor with my chipmunk cheeks, laughing with tears streaming down my face.

"How are you doing?" He asked. Then he just sighed.