I spend a lot of time on public transportation, waiting at bus stops, walking around my neighborhood, and hiking through my local suburban jungle. When you cannot drive, yee-old foot power becomes the default transportation. Because of this, I often encounter “interesting” people.
Recently, I was walking through a parking lot on my way to the grocery store. I was just off a mentally punishing day at work so my brain was operating on vigilant standby—observant to threats and objectives but otherwise in power saver mode. I am used to complete strangers walking up to ask questions. Sometimes they want to make sure that I am ok. Sometimes—especially in bad weather—they want to offer me a ride. I have had people pull over on a busy street just to offer me their umbrella. On three occasions people have stopped to do faith healing including the demons out routine. Maybe it is my cane, maybe it is my face, maybe it is just simple human kindness but I seem to attract attention.
This time I was crossing between two parked cars on my way to a sidewalk so I could get to the crossing point I use as a reference for the main shopping center. As I turned my back on the lot, a woman said something to me about living nearby and being on her way home. Southern hospitality compelled me to turn and respond cordially. I said—assuming that she had offered me a ride home— “Thank you but I am on my way to the grocery store.”
“” Yes, I only live four blocks from here.”
“That is very kind but I have several errands to run. Thank you for the offer.”
“but it will only take a couple minutes.”
“Mam, I will be here for at least 45 minutes. I appreciate the offer but there is no need.”
At this point I put a bit of polite firmness into my tone. Some people are just too well intentioned for their own good.
“It will only take a couple minutes. Look, I’ll give you 20 bucks to drive me.”
“Mam, I am confused. Are you asking me to drive you home?”
“Yes, you’re driving.”
The day’s stress and my mental auto pilot conspired to short circuit my logic functions for a minute. This was so far outside the realms of probability that my half functioning brain could not believe it. I was standing there—clearly holding a white cane—and…the…I mean…umm…
“Mam, I am blind. I cannot drive.”
“But that’s your car.” (I assume she was looking at one of the vehicles I had stepped between while making my way to the side walk. I brought my cane up—it is five feet long with alternating reflective red and white tape—in front of me so there-was-no-way-she-could mistake it.
“I assure you mam, I am blind. This is my cane. There must be a misunderstanding. I cannot drive.”
“Yes that’s your cane. You’re driving with the cane.”
I did not know what was going on. I felt like I was on the wrong end of a modern who’s on first joke. I was not sure whether to laugh, ready my pepper spray, or get some help for the woman.
“Mam blind people do not drive cars.”
“Oh driving with…the…cane…”
Silence…then she walked off mumbling in shock.
To this day I have no idea what happened. I mean, I know I look capable but driving? Seriously? Clearly I need to start wearing sunglasses.