A New Kind of Sport?
An Excerpt from Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith
Bob, my completely blind orientation and mobility trainer, snuffed out his pipe. “That’s what I want to hear.” He reached into his van and brought out a cellophane parcel. “Let me introduce you to your new cane.”
Sorry to say this, Cane, but I’d rather not make your acquaintance.
Bob took off the wrap and unfolded each of the four sections so they fell into place and became one long cane. He produced a second, much smaller parcel sheathed in plastic wrap. “This contains your roller ball tip.”
“It doesn’t come with the cane?”
“No, the tip comes separately, which thus requires you to attach it before your first mobility training.” He expertly pulled apart the plastic and extracted the tip. He guided my hand to the bottom of the cane. “It goes on here. Do you want to hook it on?”
Focused, I took the white plastic hook at the top of the roller ball tip in my hand. But instead of hooking it, the elastic snapped back into the bottom casing of the cane, pinching my thumb.
“Ow-ow-ow,” I groaned, shaking my thumb back and forth. It had already turned purple and was bleeding. I dropped the cane as I brought my thumb to my lips to stop the pain.
Bob bent down to pick it up. He gingerly brushed it off.
“Sorry about that.” Did I break my brand new cane already?
“Not a problem. It’s tricky to get your fingers in the right place. Are you all right?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said with my thumb still between my teeth.
Bob pulled until the elastic surfaced from the casing of the cane. “Want to try again?”
“No, thanks.” I backed away.
I thought it ironic he could expertly secure the tip on without a whit of sight while I, the one who could see, fumbled. He placed the cane in my right hand. After a quick reminder of how to grip it, he instructed me to go ahead. “Just get a feel for it now.”
We took to the sidewalk in front of my house with me in the lead. Shouldn’t I be behind observing his good cane techniques? Probably not. I was the one who knew the area.
“Try walking with your eyes closed,” Bob called.
Hey, what had happened to the sleep shades? Boy, was I glad he didn’t bring them.
“Okay.” I pretended, but didn’t actually close my eyes.
I must have slowed down because I felt Bob’s cane nick my heel. Time to speed up. “Bob, we’re going to turn a corner here on Templeton Street.”
“Templeton. A good solid name for a street.”
The sun caressed my shoulders as I turned. Scattered dry leaves crunched at my feet as I moved along. The leaves caught under the tip of my cane as I swept it back and forth. It wasn’t clear why I was sweeping it from side to side except that Bob instructed me to do so.
If I had my way, I’d aim my cane like a pool cue and shoot a ball of leaves into life-sized pockets low on the ground. Yellow and orange ball in the corner pocket. Everyone would be amazed when they saw that I’d made such a tough shot.
Just then I jabbed myself hard in the stomach with my cane, and yelped. “Ack!”
The billiards game turned into a dagger of a fencing sport. “Ahh! Where’s my shield?” I said loudly, massaging the area I poked. I silently bemoaned the fact I was not a knight living back in Shakespearean times and thus not properly armored.
“Speaking of where to yield, let me show you how to cross the street.”
Oh, Bob misunderstood. I’d better stop daydreaming and pay attention. I’m in the middle of a lesson.
One of the things he pointed out was to always cross at a traffic light. For our practice, I took him around the corner to a busier road. “Okay, here it is.”
“When you hold your cane vertically, it indicates to drivers that you are stopped and do not intend to cross the street. That’s important.
You then listen for sounds of traffic and yield the right-of-way to them if you hear vehicles in front of you. If you hear nothing, then you proceed to cross.”
“This is Rice Avenue. There’s the school where I teach mornings,” I pointed out to Bob. What was I saying? He couldn’t see any school.
If Bob thought anything strange about me pointing out a school he couldn’t see, he never let on. But he jumped on the opportunity to promote more cane instruction. “That’s the high school where you teach Spanish? I often conduct mobility training at the workplace. Would you like that?”
“It’s a little part-time job,” I said, as if I barely stepped in the building. “I get along pretty well there. I go straight from my classroom to the parking lot.”
And what about the day the photographer came to take class pictures? Okay, so what if I stumbled down a couple of steps in an area I didn’t know well. That could happen to anyone.
“Well, it’s always helpful to familiarize yourself with other parts of the building. I can assist in that navigation.” Bob had an eerie knack for looking past all the fluff without my saying a word.
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