The Braille Monitor                                                                                January/February 2002

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Tapping the Cheese

John Bailey
John Bailey

by John Bailey

From the Editor: John Bailey is a relatively new Federationist. He has been President of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Chapter of the NFB of Virginia for three years and was recently elected First Vice President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille of Virginia. John is also the father of two young children, who enjoy running their hands over the Braille pages of the storybooks he reads to them. The following article first appeared in the Fairfax County Chapter's newsletter. We think Monitor readers will enjoy it.


I am fairly new to the Federation. Every time I attend an NFB event or meet fellow members, I always learn something. Like most Federationists I know, I look forward to our National Convention. I make sure I don't plan anything else during the first week in July that might interfere with my attending this annual event. This year's convention in Philadelphia was no exception.

The convention lasts seven very full days and nights. last summer my family planned to join me for only the last few days. So, in an effort to keep busy and to reassure my wife that I would stay out of trouble, I volunteered to help with some of the events. Many special activities and exhibits take place during convention week. I signed up to help out at the Presidential Suite for a few hours during one of those mornings. My assigned task was to serve refreshments to guests visiting the suite. Many of them were convention speakers and invited dignitaries. My job was to make sure that they had plenty of coffee and snacks while they waited for the General Session to begin.

Now to the point of this essay. While I was filling bowls of M&M's, Dr. Marc Maurer (President of the NFB) and his wife Patricia requested that I make each of them a melted cheese sandwich with ham. Each of them had a busy day ahead, and this would be their only opportunity to eat for a while.

I jumped into action and just as quickly ran into roadblocks. First the toaster door would not open. Dr. Maurer showed me how to open the stove door with the handle of a small plastic spoon. Then I could not find the country ham. He showed me where it was in the refrigerator. Again he had to stop what he was doing and assist me. (I was so glad I had come by to help.)

As Dr. and Mrs. Maurer sat around the dining room table conversing with their important guests, I determined to get them their food without bugging them any more. That was my plan.

With the sandwiches snugly tucked in the toaster oven, came the challenge of determining when they were done. I fell back on old, inappropriate habits. First I got my trusty plastic spoon/oven door opener and peered into the toaster. I had no idea what state the food was in because I can't see worth a darn. Next I tried to pull out the oven rack to get a better look. I burned my fingers on the tray. So I found a cloth I could use to protect my hands while extracting the food. After wrestling the tray from the stove, I discovered that the only thing hot in the machine was the spot on the tray where I had originally burned myself. By this time the ham and cold cheese sandwiches had spent more time out of the oven than in it.

Needless to say, reinserting the tray was just as awkward as taking it out had been. I was concerned that the only thing getting hot in the kitchen was Dr. Maurer waiting for his meal.

Time passed, along with my chances for a career in the food service industry. Dr. Maurer (no doubt, motivated by hunger) came into the kitchen to inquire about the food. The General Session start time was approaching.

I told him that the cheese had not yet melted, so it might be a few more minutes. He decided to check for himself. He took my Swiss Army plastic spoon and popped open the oven door. Then he turned his hand palm down and brought it over the cheese sandwich at a height of about an inch. He then touched the top of the sandwich with the tip of one finger. He agreed with me that the food needed a little more time. Dr. Maurer closed the oven door and went back to his seat.

What had taken me several minutes and the possibility of a blister had taken Dr. Maurer only a few seconds. This was another reminder of how using the adaptive techniques of blindness can make life a whole lot easier and safer.

When the sandwiches were finally done, I brought them to the Maurers. Fortunately they still had a few minutes in which to consume the food that had taught me so much.

I also used the lessons Dr. Maurer taught me when I returned home. For example, I no longer bend myself in half trying to read the lettering on the elevator buttons. I stand tall and use the tactile landmarks that tell me everything I need to know about which button to push. No more backache! Again and again the little lessons I learn while associating with the members of the National Federation of the Blind continue to pay big personal dividends.

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