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.
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, !!!!! 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.