Do Not Touch the Operator When the White Cane Is In Use – by Dick Barbuto

            I have low vision.  I easily qualify as legally blind.  I use a white cane to get around. Got the picture?  Before I go any farther I must tell you that I really don’t want to hear about your poor vision, or how your contacts aren’t comfy or how you need a new prescription.  We’re talking BLIND here!  OK?

            But all is not lost.  I get around perfectly fine.  I can actually cross a street by myself and can sometimes cross while chewing gumJ.  Don’t get me wrong, I like being helped.  Who wouldn’t? But what I like even more is someone ASKING if I need help.  You’d be surprised how many people will grab my arm and decide just to help me. Pay attention.  That’s not helping.  In fact, it may scare the c**p out of me.  You may also get an unexpected (although involuntary) reaction from me. 

            Let me give you some examples.  I was once standing at the bottom of an escalator in a train station listening to what train was leaving and where it was going.  Someone grabbed my arm and said “I will help you” and started to haul me onto the escalator.  I notified I him that I was quite all right.  He insisted.  It was only when I screamed that I was going to Brooklyn and not Manhattan that unhanded me.  Somehow he was pissed.  Go figure.  Maybe I denied him his self award of good Samaritan points for the day.  I repeat:  I love help, let’s just make sure you’re really helping.

            Another time I was walking in front of a flower shop. Apparently, the owner thought it was a good idea to display her flowers and plants on the sidewalk in front of her store.  I was aware of this practice and occasionally would knock a small plant over, completely by accident, of course.  On one occasion while walking by the store, I was pulled off the sidewalk, without notice, by a person helping and I tripped.  Falling is not helpful.

            Anyway, I live in a little different world than you do.  It’s not a bad world at all – just different.  So before you decide to be all helpful to the blind guy, please remember – do not touch the operator when the white cane is in use.  Thank you.  Carry on.