Today was the first day that an interaction with people on the street left me feeling anxious and self-conscious about my lack of vision. This morning my O&M class consisted of being dropped off on Michigan Avenue with the assignment of finding a particular restaurant on my own. Not a problem. I have always been very good with directions and even with my limited vision if I travel past particular locations or down streets more than once, I can almost always find them again. Providing I've been paying attention to my surroundings. Just to be sure I was properly following my assignment; I did verify its location with a very helpful water delivery man.
A few minutes later, after walking into the very cozy Theo & Stacy's restaurant and checking out their delicious looking desserts, I was on my way to finding the next location. A parked radio station van broadcasting live in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. (Side note: Even though today was St. Patty's Day, it was early enough, around 8:30 A.M., that the streets of downtown were quiet.) Approximately half a block down from where I was I could see two figures approaching me on the sidewalk. I checked my position on the sidewalk to be sure I was walking on the right so there would be enough space for us to pass. I slowed my pace as I noticed they were veering to their right. Purposely. As they passed, approximately only 8-10 inches from my left shoulder, the guy closest to me said VERY loudly, "Don't TRIP me!" I kept my gaze straight ahead and continued on my way as their raucous laughter got quieter as the distance between us increased.
As far as I could tell these young men weren't drunk, so I am stymied by this interaction. After speaking with my O&M instructor and the other students in my class about weird situations they have found themselves in; I firmly believe that by ignoring them I handled the situation correctly. I was advised not to let it bother me but I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Being well aware that I can't control other people's reactions, I am quite irritated with how far this 10 second interaction with two insensitive people set me back confidence wise. For the rest of the class I was hesitant and could no longer easily embrace the freedom that carrying a cane allows me. I felt simultaneously embarrassed about my perceived vulnerability and furious at how ignorant people can be. To be honest, I was also scared. If it had been dark out I would have felt downright terrified. I have enough issues with anxiety that I certainly don't need some idiotic, twenty- something pranksters adding to it. It wasn't until I got back to the Center surrounded by people that I identify with and trust that I was able to relax and let my guard down
As I become more comfortable with myself and my vision loss I will be less and less likely to let a tiny minority of people bother me so much. Until then, I will have to settle with giving myself the permission to let this bother me for today only. Tomorrow, I vow not to be embarrassed by my cane. I also vow not to be annoyed with idiots who don't understand that if I had wanted to trip them my vision loss wouldn't have stopped me one bit.