Archive | September, 2015

Highway Terrors: Confessions of a Blind Driver

4 Sep

We all know they’re “out there” on our streets & highways; drunk drivers, people distracted while texting & talking on their cell phones, felons fleeing a crime scene with law enforcement in hot pursuit in high speed chases & those who are impaired in some way.  We knowingly shake our heads, convinced that we can never be a part of those statistical groups because we are careful & self-aware.

My husband & I know a couple with a lovely son who has been somewhat intellectually challenged since birth. His impairment is minimal & his father has closed his eyes to the possibility that any impairment exists. Through coaching from his dad, the son was able to pass his driver’s test & get a license. He got a ticket for driving the wrong way on a One Way street his first day driving alone. Shortly after that he “rear ended” someone at a stoplight. It was the “Ahh Haa” wake up call his dad needed & the son’s license to drive was immediately revoked at the home front. The son continues to be a wonderful young person & manages to do it without driving.

Even though we KNOW the dangers are “out there” & realize that probably the worst of them are lurking in local WalMart parking lots, we still pick up our keys, gird up our loins & join those just like us on our streets & highways. We take on blind faith that we will get from point A to point B without incident, hopefully avoiding encounters with any of those mentioned in the first paragraph. Our choices are limited if we hope to get anywhere in a timely manner. We are all at each other’s mercy … or something like that.

Yesterday I went for my annual eye exam. The doctor’s office was full to capacity with standing room only. They’ve added a new physician & he arrived, so I was told, before their new office was ready to move into, which will be in December. Sigh … a sign of the times; overcrowding is everywhere, not just on our highways.

Most of the people in the waiting room were there by themselves, as I was.

My eye exam was perfect; excellent eye health & still 20/20 vision WITHOUT my glasses. This is a phenomenon that began several years ago when my sight began improving.

Only a few hesitant steps & a stumble from needing a dog & a red-tipped cane since elementary school, I have been plagued with nearsightedness & the need for constant glasses or contacts. Even my doctor can’t explain the improvement & I don’t question it. I SEE it (get it? SEE?) as a gift that I am blessed to have received, even though my close-up vision seems to have suffered. Now I require “close-up readers” to make out the ingredients on cereal boxes & instructions on prescription labels & personal hygiene products. It’s an agreeable trade-off for me & a break from wearing, losing & breaking my glasses for many years & constantly cleaning & soaking my contacts.

The thing I hate about my annual eye exam is having my eyes dilated. For the several minutes required for the eye exam, I stumble around like … well … a blind person smacking at a dangling piñata until my pupils react normally to light again & life as I’ve known it returns about 6 hours later. I wonder if the world really IS that bright & we simply block it all out by pupils that instinctively react & constrict to protect us. Maybe that explains why cats have a third eyelid … or not.

Anyway, yesterday after my eye exam everything seemed unusually bright so I took a pair of those very dark, plastic wrap-around glasses the check-out girl offered me. So bad was the glare when I stepped out into the sun that I actually put my regular sunglasses on top of the wrap-around freebies. While I was blindly fumbling for them in my purse, I overheard a conversation between two men obviously waiting for people & preferring to do it outside where there was at least a bench for sitting, even though the temps were in the 90s. The conversation went something like this:

I guess she couldn’t see because she ran right up on the curb & twisted her bumper,” man #1 said.

   “So what happened?” man #2 asked, obviously intrigued in spite of the heat.

   “I helped pull her off the curb & she was able to drive it,” #1 answered.

Not a suspenseful conversation but it certainly got me thinking when I got in my car & noticed that the points of sunlight on shiny surfaces actually looked like glowing daggers, even through a pair of sunglasses worn over the blackout ones dispensed by the eye team. The revelation hit me like a sack of blind mice … the woman with the mangled bumper ended up that way because she couldn’t see & was actually driving under the influence of, well, something that causes impairment. This came home to me again with a jolt of my breaks when I was backing out of my parking space & was almost backed into by another lone driver navigating the parking lot in a glowing fog following an eye exam. The ophthalmology office parking lot suddenly made WalMart seem like a walk in the park … or at the very least, a drive on an empty highway.

Driving home was a challenge, not only because I couldn’t see but because I was suddenly AWARE that I couldn’t see.  I’d made that trip numerous times in the past … well, annually …& never understood the gravity of it all until that poor, temporarily blind woman mangled her bumper in the ophthalmology office parking lot.

I actually had a couple of stops I’d planned to make but didn’t dare risk it. Home was my goal & I was never so glad to see it … well, sense it … than I was when I finally arrived.

Another reason I was glad to be home was that it suddenly occurred to me that most of those 15,000 people in the waiting room at the ophthalmology office had driven themselves to their appointments. In less than an hour the roads & highways would be clogged with blind people driving cars & I didn’t want to be out there with them

I admit it … at least once a year I’ve been driving like a blind person & that scares the hell out of me.

While I was fixing dinner I opened a pre-packaged dish that was missing an ingredient. Since we’d recently been to the grocery store, I asked my husband if I should take it back. He said it hadn’t been expensive  & to just forget it. Then he added, “It must have been packaged by the blind.”

He thought he’d made a tasteless joke but in my heart I knew the person who had packaged that easy-to-fix meal had just spent his or her lunch break having an annual eye exam.

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