A Sight For Sore Eyes

The Lighter Side to Facing Vision Loss

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PARADING THROUGH PARKING LOTS … (or simply parading!)

Before I owned a car (when I first moved to San Antonio in 1989),  I rode the bus from Ingram Park Mall to Lackland Air Force Base. I walked from the main entrance across the base to the corner where the Defense Language Institute sat. I arrived before the sun even rose, and had to find my way using the streetlights. I often encountered groups of trainees marching in formation, sounding off with their training cadence. All new Air Force recruits do their basic training at Lackland.
"In the darkness, I got caught in a trainees march at Lackland ."
One early morning on my trek across the base, I heard the drill sergeant’s singsong voice, followed by an echo as the cadets shouted the cadence. I turned my head back and forth trying to locate them. The sound increased in volume when I turned the corner. Suddenly, there were upon me.  I was engulfed within the group. Entangled in the arms and feet of those marching. I was like a fly swatted around. I dodged a leg, an arm got caught in the ninety-degree, precise turns of the marchers, my butt got assaulted by swift moving knees.

I thought fast. Changed direction. Tried to match my steps with theirs. In short, I had to fit in. So I swung my arms, listened to their cadence, picked up a few words. Chanted along with them. Yes, I paraded down the street with the new trainees. We turned. Once. Twice. I inched my way to the outside of the formation until finally, I freed myself! The column continued forward and out of my view. I took a breath, looked for the nearest sign.  I was so turned around.  Lost. It got light (Thank heavens!) and I found my way back to my building. A silliness came over me as I imagined the expressions of the cadets and their trainer with and interloper like me tangled in their orderly midst.

In the parking lot of my building,  some foreign students called out “Good morning, Mom.” I turned, speechless. I wasn’t their mother. It didn’t hit me until I opened my classroom door that they’d actually greeted me with the respectful,”Ma’am.”  I don’t think either Mom or Ma’am suited me as I crossed the training base that morning.

Parking lots.

Hard to find my way around even when I had good enough vision to drive.

The day I enrolled in my M.A. Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I scanned the parking lot again and again to find my car. I had to ask a campus security guard to help me find it.  His questions about killed me.

“Ma’am, what year is it? Is it a two or four-door? Do you remember what direction you were headed? What side of the parking area you left your car? What building did you enter?

“It’s bright red, a 4-door 1990 Plymouth Sundance.”

As the questions increased in difficulty, I developed parking-lot amnesia.

After two hours, we discovered that we searched in the wrong parking lot.

Exhausted and teary-eyed, I traipsed obediently after the security guard to my beloved car.

I wanted to beg him to give me a citation, anything to repay him for his  time.

Parking lots. They overwhelmed me.

Years  later, my vision way too bad to drive, I still fought parking lots.

Tony Packo's Restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. My brother parked across the street and to the right of this crosswalk.

My brother drove me to Tony Packo’s in Toledo, Ohio (the restaurant Clinger on M*A*S*H made famous). My date waited for me inside. At the door, I turned back. I had to get some lipstick, which I left in the car. I crossed the road and headed into the parking lot. When I looked up, I found FOUR identical parking lots, one on each corner of the four-way intersection. I wandered around. But now I had a cane. I peered inside all the windows of the  maroon cars to see which one belonged to my brother.

A lady came out. “May I help you?” (Translated, “Are you lost, little girl?”)  In a couple of minutes, and this is the God’s honest truth, she called over an off-duty fireman (the kind that always rescues lost dogs). He led me around each parking lot until we finally found the right car opposite  from where I looked. The dutiful fireman wouldn’t let me cross the street  alone. He held my hand and didn’t let it go until he deposited me inside the restaurant and into the arms of my date. (This speeded up our getting-to-know each other period).

Red-faced but with a spring in my step and an adventure to share,  I made sure we had a good laugh. We needed one. My poor date couldn’t believe I got lost so close to the restaurant. He took it very hard. “You’re not getting out of my sight,” he said, as he latched onto my hand. It made me giggle after we ate and left,  my date and I had to return to the restaurant to get my cane and purse, which I left in the rest room.  Go figure.

Nowadays, I have a new rule. When I see a parking lot, I make my brother pick me up curb-side. Otherwise, (and this is more when I forget my cane) I’m off and lost again. I trip over those thin, cement parking bars and curbs,  run into bushes in center grass displays, back away from moving cars. I stumble  toward every beeping car, sure it’s my brother, my favorite driver.

He thinks I’m indomitable. I hate to prove him wrong.

Looking back, parking lots offer a lot of laughs. When people see my cane now, they quickly run to help me. I rather like that. It adds legitimacy to my poor sense of direction. I don’t have to get caught up in processions or hang my head in embarrassment.

Being blind has its advantages.

At least when I parade through parking lots.

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Parading through Parking Lots
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