Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Life During the Month of July: Part I.

I’ve been back from NYC for a little over a week. I’ve wanted to post on this blog, but distractions, procrastination, and even laziness were successful at keeping me away from posting. I’ve thought about all the things I would like to say on this blog… But have not taken any time to sit down and craft an entry that is reflective of what I’ve experienced in the recent weeks. In fact, I’m not going to really do it justice now. Distractions, procrastination, and yes, even laziness are still preventing me from really pushing out a detailed blog entry. Shameful, isn’t it? Yes, I’m ashamed…

I guess I will go in sequential order… But before I get started, I’m going to break the order by stating the most recent thing that has happened to me. Actually, it happened to my mother. Mama had another stroke the day I returned from NYC. Don’t worry… She’s doing great… God really did intervene. I’ll update you all later. In the meantime, please keep my mother and the rest of us in your prayers.

Back to my story in sequential order… I will start by discussing my trip to Florida.

Although I had been looking forward to my trip to Jacksonville, anxiety visited me a couple of days before I was schedule to leave for the sunny state. I was a little concerned about whether or not I would enjoy the conference. I didn’t know if I was going to Florida to spend a week of my valuable time with idiots, who happened to be blind. I didn’t know if I was going to be spending the week with those who I like to refer to as “blind radicals.” (Blind people who think sight is useless and unimportant…)

Furthermore, I didn’t know if I was going to have a cool roommate. And since I’m, in general, afraid of dogs, including friendly seeing eye dogs, I was certainly worried if I was going to be rooming with a responsible, yet hairy, most of the time smelly, licking, sniffing dog.

I was also a little concerned about how I would manage as a totally blind person in a hotel that I had never stayed in. Not the hotel room… I was thinking about the entire hotel. I suspected that I would be expected to travel independently, find all the rooms that I needed to go to for meetings, find the restaurants, and so on, without any assistance. Yes, I’m pretty independent. But I don’t have a bright red S on my chest.

Well, since I knew I couldn’t back out of the trip, I took a deep breath and boarded the plane to Florida. It was about 4 other blind people on the plane with me. Three of these folks had a guide dog. Wowee!!! Because the airline felt that all of us blind folk needed to sit together, they escorted each of us, one by one, the first few seats in the little jet. That day, that section of the plane was considered “blind class.” There we were the 5 blind people, and the 3 hairy companions. Trapped on a plane with dogs sniffing my feet and rubbing their coats against my legs… What fun…

Of course, all of us, the blind passengers and the sighted dogs, were all headed to Florida. I began to imagine what was waiting for us in Florida…a whole slew of blind folks… Was I right? Of course I was right. When the plane landed in Jacksonville, the nicest airport staff was patiently waiting to assist us down to baggage claim. After they assisted us with locating our baggage, we were guided to the section of the airport where the shuttles drop off and pick up. I road a shuttle, filled with blind passengers, to the Hyatt. Interestingly there were no dogs. I don’t know how I dodged that fuzzy bullet. I guess they were in the shuttle that was riding ahead of us or behind. Where ever they were, I was glad to have a break from them.

Upon arriving at the Hyatt, we were clumsily led out of the little bus. We were instructed to stand still and wait for a minute to claim our luggage. They didn’t have to worry a bit about me wandering off into a land that I was unfamiliar with. I waited like a good little girl.

As I stood in the soothing rays of the sun, waiting for my luggage and a arm to guide me to my next destination, all around me I heard white canes tapping, men and women talking to their guide dogs, giving them directions, and helpful volunteers, making themselves available to any blind person that needed assistance.

One of those helpful volunteers helped me identify my luggage, and then she guided me inside the hotel. I was so relieved to have a person that was willing to assist me. Independence is quite important to me. But fumbling, being lost, and trying to pretend to be cool about it is not a sexy feat. I’d rather not engage in such challenges. At least, not right then…

I was escorted to the conference registration desk, to the front desk of the hotel, to the bar and grill in the hotel, so that I could grab lunch, and then to my room. That was a breeze.

My roommate had already checked in, but she was not in the room. I didn’t smell dog hair. I sat down and ate my lunch and pondered about how I was going to get downstairs for the first event of the conference. After eating, I called downstairs and asked for a volunteer to help me become more familiar with the hotel. I even asked could someone assist me down stairs. Just what I expected… The person on the other end of the phone said NO. I huffed and puffed over the idea of trying to get downstairs to the where I needed to be.

Suddenly, courage gripped me. I whipped out my cane and started traveling down the hallway. I tried to retrace my steps back to the elevator. After only a few turns down the winding hallway, I was lost. But I was way past the point of no return. I was too lost to find my way back to the room. So, I decided to continue on and try to find the elevator. After taking a few more cautious steps, I heard the sound of triumph, the dinging of the ascending and descending elevator. Thank you Jesus! I hopped on the elevator, pressed the brailled #3, and headed downstairs. While I was relieved, I knew that this was only the beginning of my adventure.
It’s 3:00 in the morning. I’ll continue this long story tomorrow.

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