by Patty Droppers
From the Editor: Patty Droppers is a rehabilitation teacher who has passed the NLS Braille Competency Test. She is an excellent Braille instructor and an active member of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. The following little story first appeared in the Fall, 1999, issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia.
It was the end of the work day. I was running late, and of course I had a time crunch. As I was about to leave the office, a colleague informed me that it was pouring--the kind of rain that immediately soaks you right through to your skin. I waited several minutes before trying to leave. When I stepped out of the building, I thought it had stopped raining enough for me to get to the corner and try out a new free bus service to the Metro subway station. Normally I would have undertaken the ten-minute walk, but this particular day part of my job was to carry some items home for folks to purchase. Like magic, the rain started coming down harder again. As the skies opened up, there was a very powerful clap of thunder, the kind you want to run indoors from. Neither my guide dog nor I was happy.
A woman pulled up and offered us a ride. I told her I was on my way to the Metro, and she said she'd be willing to take us. I reminded her that both my dog and I were soaked. She said that was all right. I decided that it would be safe to ride with her, and I didn't want my precious items to become any more water-logged than they already were.
What was so wonderful about the ride was that she was not over-solicitous. She dropped us off at the Metro and continued on her way.
The story didn't end there. Once I got on the train and settled in, I pulled out the Braille Monitor to read. I was so engrossed in the reading that I didn't get the magazine put away before reaching my train transfer point. Hence, before walking to the transfer train, I needed to move out of the way and reorganize all my bulky items. At this point a woman asked if she could carry something for me. When we established that we were headed in the same direction, I gave her one item to carry, picked up my remaining items, walked down the train platform, and proceeded to the transfer platform. Again my companion just walked along somewhere nearby with no grabbing, no statements about how amazing it was that a blind person could travel alone, and no nervous chatter.
When we reached the transfer point, she informed me of the color of the train, and we both boarded. We talked about the weather. She was dry because the storm didn't reach her before she boarded the train, and I was still very wet. She got off the train before I did with no indication that she thought I needed further assistance. That was it.
It's too bad that such ordinary travel merits a story. However, I was very pleased that these two women offered help in an appropriate manner and that they continued to treat me as an adult throughout our entire interaction. And for all of that, I have my fellow Federationists to thank, as we all continue traveling together, changing what it means to be blind, sometimes one soggy step at a time.