A true story about my first walk at night, alone.
After falling down a short flight of stairs, I came to my senses and decided to finally use my cane. I worked one on one with an orientation and mobility instructor at Western Michigan University. I had just moved to Kalamazoo to finish an undergraduate degree. As luck would have it, W.M.U. had a program for Orientation and Mobility, but they needed blind volunteers for practical training. I signed up and quickly grew to appreciate the freedom that using a cane gave me.
After several months of training, walking alone at night was something I still had not done. That changed one night when I wanted to go see a play and couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go see it with me. I was going to have to go alone or not go at all. I went.
I tapped up steps, I found all the curb-cuts and didn’t miss a single turn. By the time I got to the box office I was beaming. I relaxed and enjoyed the performance because I knew there was a well lit
tower in the direction of my apartment that would guide me most of the way home.
I lived just before a railroad crossing and during my walk home there was a slow train rolling by. If I followed the sound of the train, it would take me to the last short distance from the tower to my front door. This was going to be a piece of cake. I walked with my ears hyper-focused on the rhythmic rumble. The sound orientation of the train is handy, my instructor would have told me, but you also need to attend to closer audio cues as well. If I would have thought about that advice on my walk, I wouldn’t be telling you this story now.
I was so intent on the train sounds, that I had forgotten about the road construction outside my building. On the sidewalk I was walking home on was an extremely large earth mover. So large in fact that the tires were taller than I was, so my cane felt nothing when I walked between two of them. I stopped only when my head had made contact with the body of the earth mover. For a few minutes the only thing I could hear was my own self, cussing like a sailor. I was so upset I became disoriented and had a hard time getting around the earth mover. I found one of the big fat tires and kicked at it. I whacked it with my “helpful” damn white cane, moved around the monster tractor and made it back to my apartment in an angry tizzy. After getting a look at that earth mover the next morning, I was able to laugh, because it was sitting right in front of my kitchen window.