The Things That Irk Me: Part I; or, How To Make An Awkward Situation Into A Learning Experience

So, I titled this piece, The Things That Irk Me: Part I, because I am certain there will be a part II, and a part III, etc, etc in the future. But, I also titled it, How To Make An Awkward Situation Into A Learning Experience, because the things that irk me and the awkward situations written about below go hand in hand.

As blind people we have all faced situations in the public that make us very uncomfortable, and at times, maybe even afraid of our safety. The NFB though has taught me so much about handling those awkward situations in the public. And, because the NfB has instilled in me a certain amount of confidence and poise, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn how to be safe (for one of those just in case times).

I’m going to jump right in with those irksome/awkward situations because this is a blog and blogs should be short.

1. “It’s green.”, “You can cross now.”, “Make a right.”, “There’s a pole there.”

How many times have we all heard these phrases? I hear these usually not-so-helpful phrases on a daily basis. I have learned throughout the years that I should just let these comments roll off my back; and, I usually do. What gets me though is the day I have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and I don’t let those comments just roll off my back.

When I was pregnant with Erik, almost daily, I was asked if I was okay while I stood waiting with the rest of the crowd to board BART (Bay area Rapid Transit). I don’t know why people felt like they needed to know if I was okay … wait, I do know why. I’m blind and I use a long white cane. Well, I decided to look busy to try and avoid this increasingly annoying question. I’d play on my iPhone. I’d put ear buds in my ears and listen to music or a book. Despite my efforts to look busy, I’d still hear, and sometimes get someone tapping me on the shoulder, “Are you okay?”

I decided from then on to turn the question back on them. So when I was asked if I was okay I would say, “Yes, I’m fine. How about you? Are you okay?” I had a wide range of reactions from “Oh, I’m fine. I just wanted to check if you were.” To “What, of course I’m fine. I was just trying to help.”

I consider this example both an irksome situation and an awkward situation. Did I learn anything from this? Yes. I learned that it is okay to have bad days; and that instead of being irked I’d rather turn the situation into something awkward. Okay, call me a rabble rouser but I feel that by turning that same irksome question upon the speaker makes them take a step back and think: “Why did I ask if that blind lady was okay?” Maybe next time, they’ll engage me in a friendly conversation instead of assuming I need some form of help.

2. Why do people feel like they can touch me or the things that belong to me?

Yup, we’ve all had it done to us. People who grab our canes to guide us across the street. Or, the people who grab our arms and guide us places. I’d like to take it one step further though. It really irks me when the sighted public feels like it is okay to touch my child—not just touch him and pinch his incredibly cute chubby cheeks, but put his shoes on when he kicks them off, wipe his nose for him when he’s leaking like a faucet and on, and on, and on.

The last week has been a little trying on BART for me (I’m going to have to write a post on commuting with a kid). Erik’s got to be going through some regression or something because he’s really, really needy, clingy, drooly, screeching, and the list goes on. In his attempt to try my patience, he likes to kick his shoes on. Most people will let me know he’s kicked his shoes off and will hand the shoe to me. I think these people learned what to do after the incident about a year ago. The new folks, however, have no clue that they should hand me Erik’s shoe. Really, am I asking much? These people think it is perfectly okay to put his shoe on for me. Am I crazy here? Seriously, feel free to comment below if I’m out of bounds to feel that people have no right to put my kid’s shoes on for me. It is totally a personal space issue. My kid is my space.

If that’s not bad enough, the other day, a very nice lady I often chat with on BART, took it upon herself to wipe his snotty little nose. I looked at her, and said, “Um, I hope you don’t catch the cold he has.” Do people think because I cannot see Erik’s dripping faucet, I don’t know it is dripping? I mean, I had just wiped it minutes before.

Okay, I think writing this all down has soothed me for now.

Stay tuned for a part two someday down the road.

Signing off,
Bay Area Blind Mom

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  1. Awesome I just stumbled onto your blog and this one is great. I recently made a similar decision: when I sense that the famous “you’re so amazing” is about to be spewed, I hurry up and say it first if I can, “aren’t I spectacular?” or “I know, right?.” It became apparent that trying to educate about that one has never ever worked. So I might as well make myself feel good, right? At least I know why I’m really amazing. And it’s not because my eyes are poked out. But I think people touch us for a lot of different reasons, like sighties use eye contact to connect and we don’t, so they try another way, they think we don’t know they are doing things to our kids, dogs whatever. Anyway cool blog.


    1. Mike: I’ve done a similar thing to what you’ve done but it has backfired on me. A woman once stopped me at an intersection to tell me I was inspiring, amazing, insert adjective here. I promptly replied, “I( know. I amaze myself sometimes.” She said in response, “You should be amazed at the things you can do. You’re blind and so brave.”

      Anyhow, thanks for commenting on my blog. Hope you’ll keep reading.


  2. Hi BABM. I can understand why you would feel your personal space has been invaded whenpeople ask you if you need help at a bus stop or wipe yourbaby’s drippy nose. But on the oher hand, at least those people are kind and well-intentioned. There was a time I would have gotten exasperated and wondered if people thought I was helpless. But I’ve changed my perspective as a blind mom. I would rather see unnecessary acts of kindness than be isolated from an oblivious public. There have been tmes I truly needed help and couln’t get it because those around me were wrapped up in their own world. There were times I needed help and received it, but was told that blind people had rudely refused assistance in the past and made the strangers wary of speaking to me at all. I have the confidence to get wherever I need to go. But if I smile and thank the man who gives me his bus seat or strike up a chat with the lady who hands my child the crayon she’s dropped for the fifteenth time, we’ll all have had a pleasant interaction and, in the end, I don’t guess the image of independent blind peple will be much harmed. There’s enough frustration and hostility in life; you might as well find the positives where you can. Two bits worth of free advice from a fellow blind mom; take it for what it’s worth. *Smile.*


    1. Jo Elizabeth: You are absolutely right. We all should just shake it off, and 98% of the time I do. And even if I shake it off, I’ve got many blind parents such as yourself who I can rant at, or with, because they get me and understand where I’m coming from. Thanks for your two bits of free advice. *smiley*


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