Monday was my first day of class in the Orientation and Mobility Program at San Francisco State University and my first opportunity to try walking the hall as a "traveler;" wearing a blind fold while being led by a "guide."
Before I was a traveler, I was a guide, something very natural to me. My class partner put on her own blindfold and then gripped my arm as I led her up and down the hallway. I think I may have talked too much, though.
"Here we go... we're passing a garbage can on our right... here comes a large group of people, oh good they're stepping aside to let us pass... we're now passing a chair propping open a door... another group is coming, this time we'll move aside for them... okay they're gone, lets move on... we're turning left to walk up another hallway..."
The banter felt so natural because this is what I do with Queen Teen as we travel together. Even if she's in her wheelchair, I talk about the trees and point out the squirrels and ask if she sees the flowers, and take a look at this leaf... filling in the gaps in her vision. Since she isn't completely blind, she'll often point things out to me as well. My classmate said she felt very comfortable walking with me, but I'll hear back from our instructor if I was talking too much.
Then it was my turn to be blindfolded. At first I felt dizzy and had to force myself to breath through it and fight panic. After about a minute the dizziness went away, except every time we turned I would get momentarily dizzy again. With the blind fold on, I didn't talk. My guide was also quiet, only giving me verbal cues when we were making a turn or avoiding and obstacle. I tried to hear what was going on around me but the echos in the hallway from the voices of other students were so loud I couldn't navigate by sound. I was truly blind, visually and auditorally, and had to completely trust my partner to keep me safe.
I have classes every Monday night, and since I get out so late I'm staying with friends, which means I get one full night of sleep a week. An extra bonus! Queen Teen helped Rick by doing an excellent job getting ready for school without me. Rather than whining that I was gone and punishing both Rick and I for my absence, she got her own school things organized and cheerfully greeted me when I met the bus on Tuesday. This is a big change from even this summer, when any time I left for any reason I was given the "grumpy-teen-I-hate-the-world-how-dare-you-leave-me" treatment. Queen Teen is definitely growing up.