Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Did I Go Overboard?

I didn't mean to. I was trying to use my waiting time in a productive manner. Reading, after all, is usually quite acceptable. Even in public. But did I do too much? Please, you decide.

I went to Portland this week to present information about Lutheran Blind Mission. Not only does LBM have the world's largest religious lending library of Braille/large print/recorded books, but they also have an Outreach Center in Portland. I was asked to talk about both of these opportunities, and to invite people to invite people to the monthly meals and conversations at the Outreach Center.

My contact person (PK) was on the phone when I arrived, so I introduced myself to a receptionist and took a seat in the lobby. I spent a few minutes reviewing data in my Wonderful Notebook of Information. (It never hurts to have the facts straight before you open your mouth, right?) The gal was still on the phone, but I had plenty of reading material with me.

Out came my Braille magazine. I got in the habit of carrying Braille stuff in my car when my kids were still in school. While I waited for the final bell to ring, I could practice my Braille skills. The only other time I practice is in bed at night, and after about ten minutes all the dots turn to mush. If I want to retain any skill at all, I have to remember to practice. Those synapses get lazy and forget how to fire if they aren't exercised regularly.

As I concentrated on feeling the dots, I stopped paying attention to what was happening around me. Except... I heard part of one whispered conversation as one receptionist told the other that I was there for PK's vision loss support group. Silence. I could feel eyes on me, but I kept reading.

Before I knew it, PK had come out of her office and disappeared to another part of the building. No one introduced us. I think it was assumed that I was a simply a client who would be attending the group. After all, only blind people read Braille by touch! It's likely that neither of the receptionists knew that PK had arranged for a guest speaker at this meeting. It's not that I felt disrespected, but it did seem like assumptions were made once I ceased to make eye contact and began feeling the Braille.

Assumptions. Ouch. I am guilty of making them. It was frustrating to realize that I became the object of assumptions, although I was able to act to change my identity very quickly. All I had to do was close my magazine and stride over to the desk. But there are lots of folks who cannot work so effectively to shake free.

This was an interesting experience of mistaken identity. But I have one nagging question: Did I somehow go too far, so that I insinuated actual participation in the blind community?


The Williams Five said...

First of all I am going to assume (heh heh) that you were in Portland, MAINE because if you were in Portland, OREGON I am not going to be very pleased that you didn't give me a call unless of course you were just too busy. I would understand. Really. Second, actually I don't have a second just a first. ;)

Katharine said...

Um... uh oh... but...

"Cities named Portland are found in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. There is also a city named Portland in Australia."

Read more:

Oops. Sorry, Erin, but I was in your town briefly. I got there Sunday night, had my meeting on Monday morning, enjoyed lunch with my favorite aunt, and made a short tour of Powell's Books. And then home. :-/

Sandra said...

Wellll, I"M relieved to hear that it wasn't Portland, INDIANA that you were in -- because that is less than an hour from ME and I would have been disappointed if you had been there and not let ME know. You just can't win this one, Katharine. You are so busted by your friend in Portland OR. :)

This was an interesting story. Because of your work, I'm sure you are very aware of incorrect assumptions that are regularly dealt with by impaired people. Interesting that you got to experience it first-hand, albeit briefly.