I had an experience yesterday that really didn’t affect me until today. I was driving home from bible study tonight when I realized how greatly I had been affected by this experience. I got to work at around eight-thirty yesterday and got on the elevator. There are six elevators in this area, and they are all glass. There were a few other people on this car waiting patiently for the doors to close so they could hurry up and get to their floors and go to a job they really didn’t want to be at anyway. And through the back of the elevator I saw a guy coming to take a ride.
He had his stick out in front of him, seeking out obstacles and trying to find the door to the elevator, only he was on the wrong side of it. He was feeling around on the back side of the glass wall directly behind the car we were on. And something made me hold the door for him. I know there are other cars, and had we gone on up, he wouldn’t have had to wait long for the next one, had he had to wait at all. By the time he worked his way around to the right side between the doors of the elevators, another would probably have been there waiting for him. But I shot my hand out and held that door.
Some guy behind me noticed the doors as they rebounded and went back to their full open position. He even told me he thought I might need to scoot back to avoid the sensors. And the blind man had by now worked his way around to the side of the car we were on – we were in one of the outside cars – and knocked over a sign. You know those signs that are about the size of a grade school desktop? The ones they stand on a tall easel out in the middle of the open so everyone can see? The ones you never read? I honestly couldn’t tell you what this one said on it. Not one word. But now that I see the blind guy running into it and knocking it over, I remember seeing it, and know it’s been there at least since I started working in this building.
The easel on which this sign stood had three legs – the normal – all of which were about a half-inch around, and probably two feet between each leg. The chances of a blind man’s sight stick touching one of those without a broad sweep is fairly remote. And if it does, chances are he may just think it’s a wall and run right into it anyway, which is exactly what my guy did here. He knocked the damn sign over. So people looked and stared, and snickered under their breath, probably saying things to each other. The second floor is where I work, and I see at least one blind person a day, as there is a rehabilitation center for the blind at the end of the hallway on my floor. I’ve never seen this guy though. He’s not as confident. He’s not as good at finding his way around. And perhaps he’s never been here until today. But he looks as though he’s been blind all his life.
He has blond hair, kind of slicked back, but it looks as though he did it himself. It’s not real neat, but there was some unskilled effort put into it. His head is kind of shaped a little awkward, like it was squeezed in the womb – hence my reasoning for thinking he was born with his blindness. His eyes are not normal. You remember in grade school when we’d turn our eyelids inside out? His are shaped a little like that, but all right side out, of course. They just look like the skin was strained at some point. And I couldn’t see any color in his eyes – only the white. There’s one gentleman I see almost every day who looks as normal as anyone else. I always smile at him because I think he might not really be blind. His eyes, namely, look normal. Well this guy looks blind. And he looks to be about twenty-three to twenty-five.
So he makes it to the front side of the elevator, about two feet from the door, and the doors start closing again. Some woman had helped him put the sign back up, by the way. Side note, in case you didn’t catch my drift before, take the stupid signs down. In a building where blind people are common tenants, and there are glass elevators full of people watching these guys walk around, don’t put up an obstacle course for them. It must be hard enough to make it around without having to dodge signs and other shit that doesn’t need to be there. But the doors start closing again, so I stick my foot out this time and really give it a good push. I want this guy on my car.
He makes it onto the car. And he’s standing there facing the back of the car now, with five or six people standing there facing him. He’s got a backpack on, and he barely has any shoulders. From his neck to the tops of his arms is a good forty-five-degree angle. This is another piece of evidence that leads me to believe this man has never seen a thing. Blind as a bat, standing there facing the people he knows just watched him knock the sign down. And he says, “Greetings.”
Not one of those other people had anything to say before that, and they all have the advantage of sight. They see each other smiling and looking at each other, but no one can muster up a “good morning” or a “how are you”?. This guy has never seen one of us but he tells us all hello. Why is it that people think they have to play the quiet game when they get on the elevators? I told him good morning. “What floor?” someone asks? But I already know what floor. What, do you people never pay attention either? At least two or three blind people come to this building every day and go to the second floor. Wake up and stop running through your lives like you’re trying to get to the end.
At this point, he finally turns around to face the door, and I think he scooted back a little bit. He was slightly behind me, and to my left, as I was in the front right corner of the car. I became aware of the fact that he had bad breath, as an ancillary perception. And I realized that from the time he last brushed his teeth, he’s probably taken twice as long just to get where I’m standing now.
We got to the second floor, and only he and I got off the car. I of course made it all the way around to my office before he did, but I made it a point to stand there unlocking the glass door until he walked by so that I could look at him again. I didn’t want to stare, but I wanted to be aware. I wanted to be curious about him. I wanted to take the time to try and see life through his sightless eyes. Take the time out of my day to realize how fortunate I really am. And as he walked by I felt ashamed that I’d cursed on my way to work. Ashamed that I’d wanted to shoot people on the highway for cutting me off. Because I made it to work of my own accord. I do every day. I drive myself to work and I drive myself home. And I probably always will. But tomorrow, and every day for the rest of this man’s life, he will wake up and he will still be blind.
We said thanks tonight in our prayers for my job, among other things. Things are going well for me right now. They’re getting a lot better than they’ve been for the last few months. I just had my best friend – a guy I’ve known since I was two – tell me he doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Because tomorrow I’ll wake up and I’ll still have my wife and my job, and my house. But this guy will still be blind. He’ll always be blind. I might not always have my sight, but this man will always be blind.
I think from now on I’ll see things a little differently, knowing that my struggles with getting on that elevator will never involve half the stress this guy’s will every day. I think we should all have to walk in his shoes once in a while. Then we might rekindle a little humanity.