He walked me out to his car, pleased that I had accepted his offer to drive me from church on Easter Sunday to my mothers assisted living home, which is very near to where he and his wife live. I held his left arm, heeling Pippen with my left hand. I often do that in a busy parking lot, but this day, it was mostly because I had given up on getting him to use directional words, rather than pushing or pulling me one way or another. At first, I prompted, Use words. Just tell me whether I should go right or left. But it was as if the words stuck in his throat. Suddenly, he could only talk with his hands. When we reached his car, he asked Do you want Pippen to get in first? At last, he found his voice. What happened next was not only awkward, but embarrassing as well for us both. I reached in and put my hand on the seat, to see whether there was enough room between the seat and the back of the front seat, but nothing was making sense to me. Then it dawned on me that I had assumed the car was facing to the right, but it was facing to my left. No wonder I was confused. Meanwhile, he again tried to physically turn me to face the right way. Once I realized my mistake, I told him to quit manhandling me so I could get myself and my dog settled into the car. I didnt mean to use such a harsh term, but thats exactly what it felt like. He had no malice, just a complete lack of awareness that it would be helpful to tell me in words that I would be in the back behind the driver. Thats all it would have taken for me to be properly oriented.
In his defense, Im sure he never considered that I wouldnt know which way the car was facing. But , the door was already open when I approached the car, and I didnt know if the door was the kind that swings open or slides to the back.
Im telling you all this, not to belittle my kindhearted church friend, but to advise you on how to handle this situation gracefully and efficiently.
Some months ago, I presented a sensitivity session with some staff from a taxi company. One of the most appreciated exercises we did was to guide a blind person into the waiting taxi. First, tell your blind passenger which way the car is facing, to your right or to your left. This is obvious if youre on a 2-way street, but not so obvious in a parking lot. It can even be confusing in my own driveway. Some drivers pull in forward, and some back in. Next, put the passengers hand on the handle of the door. This allows her to know which way the door will swing open, thus knowing which way to face when attempting to get in. It also helps if you let her know if shes going to be in the passenger seat in the front or behind the driver in the back. As the blind passenger, having never been in his car before, and with the door already open, I realize now that I should have asked.
If you like to be a gentleman, show her with her hand where the handle is, and then tell her youll get the door. Be mindful of those windows that have a sharp angle that can easily damage her face, because she doesnt see it coming. After shes seated, say, Ill shut the door now. My friend Dan does this all the time, and I like it. Of course I know hes going to shut the door. He doesnt really have to tell me that, but its just a safety precaution, just in case I should suddenly decide to reach for the seatbelt or check to make sure my coat is all the way in. Of course, when Im not with someone who likes to be a gentleman, Im perfectly capable of shutting my own door.
All this may sound rather complicated and cumbersome, but it all boils down to Heres the door, or if the door is already open, like in a mini van, the car is facing to the right or to the left.. Thats it. Its not really that hard. Just use words.