Monday, March 22, 2010

And there was much rejoicing when I made it across the street!

(image from Wikimedia Commons)

I thought it would never happen. After weeks of standing on street corners with my eyes closed, listening to the sounds of traffic stopping and going at intersections, feeling the sound curve around my head and crash against buildings, I finally walked across an intersection under blindfold.


My class met at Guerrero and 22nd in San Francisco's Mission district for our first street crossing lesson at a traffic controlled intersection. I kept both my blindfold and my low vision simulators (glasses covered in cheesecloth) in my pocket, ready for anything. My class partner and I went to our assigned intersection and practiced listening to the traffic under blindfold until we could determine the "now" moment. The light would change and the traffic on Guerrero would surge, creating a distinct roar of cars in motion. After taking a moment to listen for right turners and red light runners, we would step forward to cross the street, our cane arcing back and forth as we attempted to keep a straight line of travel to the destination corner. My partner had no trouble hearing the different sounds cars make as they travel forward through the intersection or turn in front of him. He has an incredible ability to differentiate sound and correct his own alignment by mere millimeters.

I am not so lucky.

When it was my turn to be the student and his to teach me, I covered my eyes with the blindfold and was immediately drowned in a roar of noise. Engine sounds swirled around me once again and I could only hear the right turners when they'd already passed me and traveled several car lengths down the street. How would I ever make it across the road safely?

I was determined, though, and I knew my class partner wouldn't let me get run over. And I realized that the traffic signals helped me determine the right time to cross. Unlike stop signs, the traffic flow had a definite pattern. With a little logic I could easily tell which direction traffic was flowing. I needed to pinpoint when my near parallel traffic traveled through the intersection, so I only had to sort out specifically how that group of cars sounded when the light changed. I still couldn't hear if someone was turning right, but again, I knew my class partner would grab me if a car was turning in front of me. Plus our instructor was observing and giving us both feedback. Between the two of them, I wouldn't die.

Here we go, I thought. I took a deep breath, listened for my cue, and started across the street. The sound roared around me as usual, but I knew logically it was moving forward because the light had changed to let traffic flow down Guerrero. I crossed 23rd street as fast as I could, my cane tapping back and forth, then swinging side to side as I found the curb, cleared, and stepped out of the street.

I did it!

Both my partner and our teacher cheered. I was grinning so big my cheeks pressed against my blindfold. I did it. I really did it.

I did it once more with the traffic heading toward me on my near parallel. This was actually easier for me to hear because the roar was coming at me instead of behind me, except that I had to wait a while when there were loud motorcycles blocking any other sound. I like motorcycles, but while waiting to cross the street I really wished every Harley in town would get their frickin muffler fixed!

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, my brain and my senses on overload. But I also felt very proud of myself. I was able to keep my anxiety low and stay focused on the sound cues I needed. And my cane skills didn't fall apart.

Wow. Maybe I'll be able to cross a busy stop-sign controlled intersection someday. But first, I have to cross 19th Avenue: all six lanes of traffic crammed, people-get-hit-by cars-traveling-at-40-miles-per-hour-weekly, 19th Avenue. That's what our class will be doing next week.

oh boy...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I knew I was going to be busy with school!

(Image by Randy Glasbergen )

Wow. The last time I updated my blog was Feb. 17th, and now it's March. What happened? School work, house work, child care, and publishing have dominated every ounce of time I have, leaving absolutely zero for anything remotely creative, including writing. Yes, publishing is creative, but I'm in the marketing/networking phase, which is focused on finding your target audience and making sure they know about the book; not the time for imagining scenes and inventing characters. Sometimes I look at my journal and my almost completed play, my novel longing to be written and my memoir in need of revision, and I ache for just one hour to lose myself in a story of my own devising.

Not today. Today I have to finish my intersection analysis, read 100 pages for my classes and start working on my exit report. Writing will have to wait until Summer.

And now Queen Teen is sick, so even homework is tricky to get to. She's had a cold for over a week, was finally getting better, and now it looks like she caught the flu. Poor thing. A double whammy of sickness. She lying in her bed trying to rest with a 100 degree temp and a nose so stuffed up she can't even blow it properly; just wipe and whimper because it's so sore. There is a mountain of used tissues and books around her right her now.

School is tricky, but I love it. I never did make it across the street under blindfold. Instead I'm wearing a low vision simulator (old glasses frames wrapped in cheesecloth to obscure my vision) at street crossings because there isn't enough time in the class for me to train my hearing to differentiate sounds. Good thing I'm not graded on being the cane traveler because I would flunk the class. Instead, I'm graded on my ability to teach and so far I'm getting an A. Yes!

What am I doing on this blog!? I need to get back to my homework while Queen Teen is distracted by books for a bit. I just wanted to say hello, check in with my blog community and pals, and stretch my writing muscles for a few minutes. If you don't use them, they get weak, just like any part of your brain.

Sorry I haven't had time to stop by your own blogs. I miss hearing the news. School won't last forever and I know I'm investing my time into my future right now. My hubby and I have been discussing what we'll do when I have a job, and it feels amazing to plan for the future instead of dreading it.  Time well spent, I say.

Well, back to work. Take care everyone.