Look Both Ways

Cisco and I were walking down the sidewalk in the neighborhood, minding our own business, when suddenly, just to our left, not 5 feet away, a motor roared into life. I mean, it was as if the operator had waited until the very second we were exactly adjacent to him before he switched it on. My immediate reaction was to stop, mouth open in startled shock and hand to heart to put my heart back in my chest. Seeing my reaction, the man shut off his motor and said with some enjoyment, Did that scare you? I answered, You could have waited 2 more seconds. I never seen ya, was his excuse for such an inconsiderate action.

On the other hand, Ive been grateful many times when someone mowing their lawn would either shut down his motor until we passed or turned away from us, thus avoiding the possibility of kicked up debris damaging my dogs eyes. Ive been equally annoyed when someone does just the opposite. Ive had lawn mowers head straight for us, and all I can do is urge my dog to move along out of the way.

Lawn mowers can not only be annoying and frightening, but they also can be a dangerous threat to a blind pedestrians safety. My heart sinks every time I approach a corner where I must cross the street, and I hear the roaring of a lawn mower in the yard. I know that Ill never be able to hear on-coming traffic. If its a quiet street, where cars are likely to not be moving fast, Ill wait for a few seconds at the curb, then give my dog the forward command and pray. So far, thats worked, but its not exactly safe. In a perfect world, the person pushing that mower would realize that I need to be able to hear the traffic to cross safely, but most people, if they think at all about it, have the mistaken notion that the dog watches for traffic and lets the person know when its safe to cross. In truth, its the person who determines that. The dog will refuse to cross, only if the car turns in front of him or if there is a car in the crosswalk. He cannot be expected to judge the speed of an oncoming car. After all, hes a dog. Hes trained to obey commands and to intelligently disobey if the danger is immediate.

One morning, on my way to church, I approached just such a corner. The lawn mower was roaring in the corner lot, and the street I had to cross there was a busy one. It would be impossible to hear when it was safe to cross. I had 2 choices. I could wait until he was done mowing his lawn, and thus be late for church, or I could do something proactive to remedy the situation. I faced in his direction and waved my arms around. He shut off the mower, and I explained to him that I was not able to hear the traffic, and could he please keep it off until I had crossed. He was so nice about it that I went a step farther and asked him to look up and down the street to let me know when I could cross. When I got to the other side, I waved my thanks, and he went back to his yard work, having just learned something he didnt know about how a blind person and her dog manage busy street crossings. I can only look both ways if I can hear both ways.

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