Movie Workeres in the Dark

Because descriptive video, DVS, is becoming more available with first run movies, and most theaters have the equipment necessary to make it work, by now, the employees of the theaters should have some clue as to what it’s all about. Not so it seems.

Last night, when my friend Dan and I went to see a popular movie in a theater, we asked for the DVS receiver. He had even called ahead to make sure that the movie had DVS and the theater had the equipment. The guy at the counter assured us that this was the right receiver. As anyone reading this blog who is blind can tell you, there’s about a 50% chance that it will be the one for people who are hard of hearing.

After we got settled in our seats, I plugged in the device to see if this was the right one. I heard nothing during the trailers—a good sign. If I heard enhanced sound, I would know that it was the wrong receiver. So it looked promising.

But then the movie started and there was nothing. With a sigh of frustration but good natured resignation, Dan took the unit back to the desk and reported that it didn’t work. Aftger some heated discussion as in

“This device isn’t working.”

”It doesn’t work until the movie starts,” and

“I know. the movie has started.” and

“No, the movie has not started,” and

“Yes, the movie has started,” the manager brought the device into the theater, turned it on, and sure enough. The movie had started and it didn’t work. Imagine that. the customer was right. The manager apologized and gave Dan two passes to another show, which did not impress Dan at all. Why should we come back to this theater only to be disappointed again.

The major problem with this system is that there is no way to tell if you have the right receiver or if it’s going to work properly until the movie itself begins. that means, you either sit there in misery for the rest of the show, which I have done, or your friend has to describe it for you, or your friend has to run back to the front and miss the first 10 minutes of the show while he argues with the management. Surely, somebody smarter than I can figure out how to fix this problem.

But here’s the funny part of this story. the manager, trying to smooth things over brought out a device for enhanced listening. Great. Maybe if I could switch my disability from blindness to deafness, everything would be all better. On another occasion, at a different theater, I was handed a device that provided closed captioning for the deaf.

Dan told me later that a lot of my blog posts infer that people say or do really stupid things, and he thought I was being a little harsh. Now he agrees. Sometimes people do the stupidest things.

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Always the Toastmaster

Last fall, I did not renew my membership in toastmasters, but I would never say I quit. The skills I learned and the talents I developed have allowed for some of my happiest memories.

One of these times was last Tuesday morning, when I presented a talk about the Hen Hike to a group of church women. Beginning with a five-minute speech I created for a speech contest several years ago, which I won on several levels, I expanded the story to a twenty-minute presentation.

Expecting to be mildly entertained, perhaps inspired by my positive attitude, or “amazed” by all the “unbelievable” activities I try, even as a blind person, I think they were slightly taken aback by all the laughter they shared. In my story of the Hen Hike, I talk about how twelve women hike together each year, and half of us are blind. I describe the precarious ways we get through some situations that might be a little dangerous. I tell stories of how one of our gals broke her leg on a hike, and how I was jealous, because all six of those paramedics who rushed to the scene were big strapping gorgeous guys. I describe the beauty of the silence of our surroundings when we pause each day for five minutes of silence and how we sing girl Scout songs just for fun. I’m the one who has the most fun telling these stories as my audience members are falling off their chairs with giggles and guffaws. The biggest laugh of all comes when I tell about going to the bathroom in the woods, how “even our bottoms love the great outdoors.” I have given this talk to several groups and have received an honorarium for some of them, but of course for church groups, they get the “friends and family” rate, i.e. free. As they say, some of the best things in life are free, and laughter ranks right up there with the best of them. Thanks to my audience for laughing at all the right times and reminding me that being a toastmaster was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Shameless plug. If you need about a twenty-minute program for your group, you know where to find me.

Part 4, conclusion of a series On Being a Blind Mother

Making Me Proud

The proudest I’ve ever been was the time when Kara’s inlaws came for a visit, and they all decided to go bowling. Not wanting me to be left out, Kara tried to find a place that provided railings for blind bowlers. But finding none, she offered to be the railing herself. I knew this was a great sacrifice for her, because we would be quite the spectacle. . She’d hold my left arm and walk with me as I approached the foul line and tell me when to deliver the ball. I still wasn’t any good, but I’ll always be grateful to her for not being embarrassed, because you know, everybody in the place was probably watching us. If we’d been playing baseball, I’d say, she really stepped up to the plate.

I won’t say that my children and/or grandchildren were never uncomfortable or embarrassed or unsure what to do. And I’ve wondered from time to time if they ever felt cheated because of my blindness. My daughter, particularly, has a way of making me feel comfortable and not conspicuous, and she’s a natural at guiding and describing . She always tries to include me in their family activities when I’m visiting and encourages interaction with her children. One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from her husband when I had gone to help out following the birth of their first baby. On the day I was to leave, my son-in-law and my daughter came to me and asked if I could stay two more days. I must have been doing something right, because how many times does a young father ask his mother-in-law to stay longer? Perhaps one day, when she isn’t dealing with teenage drama and running after a two-year-old, she’ll tell me her side of the story.

Part 3 of a Series On Being a Blind Mother

The Next Generation

At this writing, I have five granddaughters, four teenagers and a two-year-old. The older girls have been taught to tell me when they are leaving the room and when they have come back, thanks to Kara’s example and instruction. They are very comfortable with having a blind grandmother, because that’s what they have known all their lives. We play games with brailled cards or game pieces, like Scrabble, Uno, and Blurt. We played a game called Mancola, which involves moving marbles from one well into another, a very tactile game that the younger girls enjoyed and that required no sighted help. Kara bought brailled children’s books, so I could read to the girls at bedtime. They learned to respect guide dogs and not to point and exclaim when they saw a person with a disability in public.

My toddler granddaughter is now learning to put things in my hands and to speak more clearly when she is addressing me.

Some challenges

It hasn’t always been easy. Just as I have to organize transportation for myself these days, I spent hours on the phone asking for rides when my children were little. Their dad wasn’t always available to take them to baseball practice, or gymnastics or ballet lessons. He did have to work after all. And sometimes, I had to rely on their knowledge of colors to help them lay out their clothes for school the next day. Steve always cracked me up when I’d ask him about something that was beige. “I don’t know what that color is Mom. It’s no color,” he’d say.

I can remember my frustration and Kara’s too, when I tried to curl her hair. A beautician I would never be.

when we’d go to the baby pool, and I’d be sitting on the edge, I’d insist on their responding to me immediately when I’d call their names. I was very serious about this rule. No trying to fool Mommy. They must have played tricks on me. what kid wouldn’t? But I can’t recall a single time.

Part 2 of a series On Being a Blind Mother

Later, when I was required to attend Little League baseball games, I’d sit in a lawn chair and cheer whenever the other parents cheered, while I silently prayed I wouldn’t get hit in the head by a foul ball. Miraculously, I never did.

During one game, when Steve was nine or so, and Kara was about six,

Kara wanted to go to the playground nearby. I thought we could sneak off and nobody would notice. After all, it was pretty boring for a six-year-old to watch a brother’s baseball game. But As soon as we had reached the slide and swing set, I heard Steve call from the outfield, “Hey Mom, you’re supposed to be watching me!” Oops. Busted. He didn’t care if I could see him or not. It was just important for me to be there.

And then there were Kara’s baton competitions. I sat on bleachers in gymnasiums for hours at a time, listening to taped marches and polite applause from time to time. Tap dancing and choir concerts I could appreciate, but baton twirling? It was Kara’s passion for a couple of years, and it was frustrating to me to not be able to watch her perform and compete. I had to rely on the comments from other mothers. I guess she was pretty good though, because she became a drum majorette in high school. Again, even though I couldn’t see how well she twirled, it was important for me to be there anyway.

Training to be a Sighted Guide

Even when Kara was only eight or so, she and I would go to events together on the para-transit. We went to the Columbus Arts Festival, and she would describe what she was seeing. She grew up being a sighted guide, and now it’s second nature for her. We laughed when she was in college, and she’d sit down at the table with her friends at a restaurant and start reading the menu aloud. She also became very aware of how insensitive the public can be about people with disabilities and especially about guide dogs. One time when we went to the Ohio State Fair together, we stopped in the restroom to give my Seeing Eye ® dog a drink of water. Kara had filled the bowl and was holding it for my dog. A woman came over and stood there, staring, as if she had never seen a dog drink before. Instead of saying something like, “What are you staring at?” Kara very pointedly looked up at the woman, made eye contact, and gave her a little wave..” She didn’t need to say a word, but she sent her message clearly. My daughter is now quite the competent advocate.

One Being a Blind Mother Part 1

This being Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some memories with you. This is Part 1.

How do you explain blindness to a two-year-old? You don’t. You don’t need to. As a mother of a son and a daughter and a grandmother of five granddaughters, I have some memories pertaining to my blindness I’d like to share with you.

I don’t recall explaining why I couldn’t see to either of my children. Because they grew up with a mother with very limited sight(as a result of retinitis pigmentosa), that was the normal for them. One parent couldn’t see so well, and the other could see just fine. So when it came to reading notes from school , teaching them how to ride a bike, or driving, it was their dad who took care of that. When it came time for changing a diaper, kissing a booboo or making dinner, that was my department, and blindness was not an issue. It wasn’t even a consideration. I have my husband’s positive attitude to thank for that.

One of my favorite stories to tell is about how Steve, as a 3-year-old, would make sure I knew where he was at all times. when he was outside playing, I followed him around, so I could keep an ear on him. “I’m over here Mommy,” he would call.” “Now I’m over here,” he would shout as he ran to the next toy or piece of playground equipment. It was I who took him to swimming lessons, although I didn’t know how to swim myself,. But I could hold him in the water and encourage him to blow bubbles or jump off the side of the pool while I held onto him, just like all the other mothers. It was I who pulled him in the wagon on the sidewalks around our neighborhood, with my very limited vision. Although my sighted husband read to him, I looked at the books with him as he placed my hands on the pictures. When he came home from kindergarten with a picture he had drawn, he would instruct me on where to touch it, and then I’d ask him to tell me about the picture.

When Kara came along, he adopted the very important role of being a big brother. We lived in a split-level house, and when we were upstairs, and Kara was in her little walking contraption called a Hula-coop, Steve would lie on the floor at the top of the steps and proclaim, “I’ll betect her Mommy.”

As a little girl, Kara learned from her brother that when she showed something to me, she needed to put it in my hand and that pointing to something or shaking your head wasn’t going to work. Her vocabulary, like Steve’s was more advanced than her peers, because they both grew up learning to use words at all times. They both learned to read at an early age, because by the time they were of school age, I had been asking them to help me read the labels on canned goods. I particularly remember asking Kara to help me pick out a can of chicken noodle soup. At that time, I hadn’t yet learned how to be a blind person and mark my cans with braille. “What letters do you see on this can?” I would ask four-year-old Kara.

“Well, there’s a stick that goes up and down with a hat on it. Then there’s a circle.” Okay, that must be tomato soup, and we’d go on to the next can. “This one has a half of a circle, and then the next one is two sticks with a line in the middle.” Aha. the chicken noodle soup.

Memories of Sweet and Tender Fried Clams

When I heard that the Old Bag of Nails had fried clams on its menu, I immediately knew what I would order. Even though I love their fish hooks with boomboom sauce, and their fresh spinach salad, which is a nice alternative to fattening favorites, it had to be the fried clams. Memories of Howard Johnson’s sweet and tender fried clams beckoned me from the menu. Sweet and tender are not my original descriptions. I just looked up fried clams on the internet, and those were the words used over and over. Seems I’m not the only one with fond memories. When I was a child, HoJo’s was my favorite place to go out for dinner, because not only could I always have those fried clams but I could always finish my meal with a chocolate soda. It was a tall glass of chocolate flavored soda with an enormous scoop of ice cream sitting precariously on top. You had to carefully spoon from the sides of the mound of ice cream, so as not to allow it to plop into the soda too soon. Take a few healthy draws of the soda from the straw before you took those last few bites of ice cream, and then plop! It was as delightful to succeed in not making a mess as it was to eat the wonderful concoction.

I had a friend, who has since passed away, who reminisced with me about those wonderful fried clams. He worked at a Hojo’s, and every time he passed that bin of freshly fried clams, he’d grab a handful. He never got tired of them.

As I took my first bite of clams last week at the Bag of Nails, my hopes of reliving that memory were deflated. They were dry and tough. What a disappointment. I guess I’d better stick with what the Bag does best, the Orka-sized fish and chips. The internet says there is still a Howard Johnson’s at Lake Placid. But I don’t know how long ago that was posted. Maybe that could be a destination for a future vacation. OK. that might be a stretch, but it sure would be nice to taste them again.