Post Title: Caught Without my White Cane!
If only we could see into the future – even a few hours, we’d make better choices. But since we can’t, we have to take life on the cuff and learn our lessons. I guess it makes for an eventful life, certainly. Such was the case when I went to see a new band at a place called “The Christian Café” down the street from my house with my friend. Here’s an excerpt from a vignette in my book Mobility Matters: Milestones in Mobility.
Excerpt from “Dancing the Hokey-Pokey”
When Brenda and I slipped through the church social center door, music blared throughout the room. The dim lighting left most of the room to my imagination.
It would take my eyes a few minutes to adapt to the darker light.
Brenda gave me a little push. “Go ahead, Lead the way.”
“Hang on.” Did she forget I couldn’t see in the dark? “Why don’t you go ahead? I’ll join you in a minute,” I suggested instead, not wanting to get into a long explanation.
“Oh? Okay, I’ll go first.” Brenda already had her social antenna in high gear as we made our way to the far side of the room. I tagged along, my cane carefully picking out a path ahead of me.
“There aren’t any tables,” she said. “We’ll have to wait until something opens up.” Before I could even reply, she turned to greet a couple at another table.
I folded my cane, sliding the elastic cord around it, almost as if it were a bow on a package. Then I went through the exhausting routine of taking off all my extra clothing. I set my jacket, gloves, and purse on some folding chairs.
If Brenda didn’t know someone, she made it a point to introduce us and find common ground. She didn’t have ‘stranger’ in her vocabulary. I tried to look friendly as I clutched onto my cane parcel and kept my clothing in sight.
My friend buzzed from place to place trying to find an open table. She finally asked me, “Want some coffee?”
Only if that was all they had. Coffee speeded me up.
The walls vibrated with the loud praise music. It sounded like a cacophony to my ears and I winced, craning my neck to get my bearings.
Since I had used my cane earlier, I wasn’t surprised when a woman seated nearby politely asked, “Can I lead you to the food table and get your coffee for you?”
“No thanks,” I said brightly, “I’ll be fine.” I wasn’t a horse to be led to a trough. I grimaced in the darkness, thankful the woman could not see my face or disdain.
After unfolding my cane, I made my way to the refreshment table. When I reached the front, I found myself faced with regular, decaffeinated, and a roasted blend.
A server bustled around, tidying up the table. “Dear, would you like me to pour a cup for you?”
I weighed my options, wishing I weren’t so sensitive about people doing things for me. She probably offered to pour everyone’s coffee, not just a vision-impaired guest with a cane. Besides, I dreaded seeing the wrong side of the cup and pouring coffee onto the white linen tablecloth by mistake.
In this case, accepting help would be fine. “Yes, thanks!”
“Would you like almond, French vanilla, caramel cream ….” Being a non-coffee drinker, the array of choices overwhelmed me.
“Ah, ah, vanilla.”
Fortunately, the Styrofoam cup lined up with my vision and I gingerly reached for it.
I returned to my seat, pie in one hand, coffee in the other, and my white can dragging behind. I only had two hands.
Brenda joined me soon enough. When she spoke, the band began another rousing song. The instruments sounded nearly as loud as the singing. The lyrics were lost on me but I leaned in to try to catch what Brenda was saying. “This is no fun. There’s no place to set our food.”
Brenda was already scanning the room. Determined to find us a table, she left. She returned a few minutes later and said in a stage whisper to me, “I think that table is free.” She pointed to one not far from us. “Did you see? Some people cleared it. Let’s take it!”
I decided to carry the pie and coffee to the table in one trip, then return to pick up my cane, jacket and hat in a second trip. I couldn’t carry everything at once. I was halfway there when – Wham! I ran smack into a bearded man. My coffee splashed out of my cup and into the air, on him, on me – everywhere.
Coffee! Coffee! Hot! Hot! I plucked my sparkling black t-shirt away from my skin. My pie flew to the floor and under his giant foot. Splat!
Before I could sensor my words, “Damn” escaped my lips.
As if on cue, the lights came on and the band stopped playing. I had that odd sensation of being singled out as “the blue light special” in K-Mart. Or when the intercom sounds in a department store announcing a lost child is seeking a familiar family member … that kind of feeling where all eyes turned to me. In the silence of that moment, my embarrassment ramped up. The only thing lost was the single curse word, which I imagined ricocheting over the silent dance floor and off the walls ….
My overactive imagination envisioned every one of the seventy-five plus faces in the audience turned to me. The band members, who only moments earlier could have been rockers now seemed like angelic a cappella singers crooning in adulation to Jesus, stared in my direction.
Was I the woman who dared shout that word in a Christian Café?
At that moment I longed to hide behind a life-sized cross. Who would ever say that word in a church café after committing the heinous act of smacking – for it was a hard sound that reverberated in the room – into a bearded man and tossing coffee up and pie down?
“Are you okay?” I asked the bearded fellow.
“Just fine. Fine. Fine. Fine.” He smoothed out his beard and patted down his suit as if to reassure me. “Let me get you another coffee.”
No. No, no. NO coffee. I hate, absolutely HATE coffee. Never drink the stuff. Look what it caused. I’m totally embarrassed. Can you see that? You have normal vision.
And yet, with my own ears I heard myself say, “Yes, please.”
“Creamer?” He asked.
“French vanilla,” I answered as if I were a coffee connoisseur.
I tried to scoop up the mashed pumpkin pie from the floor but an older woman took the plate from my hand, and sat me down. I know she only wanted to help. But I felt like a little kid to be disciplined.
I realized I hadn’t been very gracious to the bearded man – or anyone else who tried to help me over the course of the evening. As was so often the case, I tried to reconstruct what happened. Did he run into me or did I run into him? Maybe he wasn’t looking and he ran into me. One could always hope….
Although my eyes never work at the right time, I did notice the bearded man wipe the pie off the smooth black sole of his shoe while I was seated.
With an apologetic smile, the stranger handed me a cup of coffee and French vanilla creamer.
I took the coffee. The woman who sat me down handed me a second piece of pie.
The man shrugged, and, now that the sudden shock of our collision passed, I noticed how handsome he looked. I couldn’t help but smile. From what I could see, this man looked pret-ty sharp. I leaned in. No wedding ring?
Brenda noticed my reaction. She elbowed me. “He’s a hunk! I think he likes you.”
She might be the social butterfly but apparently, I had my way of meeting new people, and getting noticed, too. My way was a tiny bit more … unpredictable.
The bearded man became the tall, good looking stranger in a suit to me after that. When he sat down, I picked up my purse from the floor. Something fell over at my feet. My white cane.
It lay securely folded up as if that was its main resting place. As if it had no other job to do.