Crazy Commute

I thought I’d share with you all a crazy commute I had the other day. When you’re blind, the path of least resistance is to plan, plan, plan…especially when it comes from getting from point A to point B… and then keep to the plan. One hitch in the plan and life becomes confusing. But, life likes to throw wrenches in the best laid plans of men (and women).

My team at work was scheduled to make a presentation at our staff meeting, 9 am sharp. Knowing this, and contemplating how I sometimes run behind, I left my house extra early, so as not to risk being even a minute late. I walked to my normal place on the platform, happy to see the train coming soon after. I’m really going to be on time here!

My first train pulled up to my transfer station, and I got off, noting an excessive amount of people trying to get on the train. I walked across the platform and noticed that no one was getting on the other train…maybe they are already on there? As I stood there wondering, a woman came up to me and informed me that “they are making everyone get back on the other train.” I turned around to find the doors closing and the train pulling out. Argh. So much for that train. Now, I’ll be basically on time. That’s okay…that’s why I left early.

While I waited on the platform, I heard a garbled voice over the intercom saying something about a broken rail and no Q trains into Manhattan. I wondered if that would affect my own train, but since they didn’t say anything about it, I decided to wait to hear what the conductor in the next train would say. The next train pulled in, and I got on to try to transfer to my train into Manhattan at the next available station, pending the conductor didn’t mention a problem. And, they didn’t. When we pulled into the next transfer station other people were getting off, so I did too, and the second train I was on pulled away. As I stood there, an express train pulled in on the local tracks, and the conductor informed us that none of my usual trains were going into the city, and so now I was faced with two large transfers on my commute to work.

If a large terminal is confusing enough to a person with good vision, imagine how it would be to someone who lacks sight. Full of wide terminals and staircases going every which way…I avoid those stations like the plague. I stood on this third train, snaking along at a snail’s pace and planned out my route. There was no way I was making it to work on time now. This sucks. The one day I couldn’t be late.

The train pulled into Atlantic Terminal, my first huge transfer. Luckily, I knew this station pretty well, as Adam and I frequent it. I got off the train with the hoards of other people rushing to catch an alternate train and make it into work. Although I was going crazy on the inside, I knew I had to snake along at a snail’s pace like the train I was just on. I slowly made my way to where I thought the appropriate stairs would be, running into people all along the way. Suddenly, a woman came to my rescue. She asked where I was headed, took my arm, and walked with me toward the stairs. I’ve had to deflate my personal bubble long ago, due to having to hold people’s arms, running into folks, and dealing with random strangers grabbing me to lead me somewhere…even if I say I’m fine and don’t need help. Today, this woman was an angel. I was so relieved to have the assistance. As we walked up the stairs, she introduced herself, and lo and behold, we share the same first name. How funny. Interestingly enough, I was able to assist the other Rebekah in a small way myself. She was looking for the 1 train, which doesn’t run to Atlantic Terminal, but I was able to send her to the 2 and 3 trains which will transfer to the 1 at a later point. That was kind of cool, but I digress.

Rebekah got me to the bottom of the stairs of the next train I was to take, and I got on my fourth train for the day. First crazy transfer complete, now off to Grand Central Terminal…which I am not as familiar with.

I held the bar on the crowded train, again trying to plot my route. I couldn’t remember the route to the final train I needed. There was no way around it, I was going to have to flag someone down and ask the way. I’ve also had to deflate my pride long ago, due to actually needing help more often than I’d like to admit. The train pulled in, and I hopped off, arbitrarily choosing a direction to walk in.

Then another angel appeared. She asked if I was heading upstairs. In reply, I asked if she knew which way to the train I was looking for. It was in the opposite direction, and down the stairs. Good thing I asked her. Not only that, but she was taking the same train I was, so She walked with me to the next platform!

The train pulled in and I got on. The insanity was almost over. As soon as I got cell reception I texted my supervisor to let him know I was on my way, and that the commute was crazy. Now all I had to do was get to work. But what if the train drops me off in a different location on the platform than I am used to? Funny how you have to think of such small things when you can’t see. I’ve actually gotten lost on that very platform when I was just starting my job. Oh, well. If I could handle this morning’s commute, I can handle a silly platform. I got off the train, and had no problems getting the rest of the way to work. Once inside, I could’ve cried as the build up tension in my mind and body began to fade. Not only that, but it didn’t end up being a big deal that I was late, as the others seemed to understand my tardiness.

I took a few things away from this situation. For one, I realize I’m becoming bolder in the unfamiliar. This situation would’ve mortified me a few months ago, and it still kind of did, but I find myself being more ready to stand out in the crowd if it gets me where I need to be. Secondly, it is really comforting to know that even in the extreme hustle of the city; there are plenty of good people out there ready to help their fellow man. If you’re one of those people, don’t stop. Maybe it’s embarrassing and a bit uncomfortable, but what a blessing a simple act can be! Okay, I’ll stop being mushy now.

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I Got Lost

This story happened to me about a month ago, during the extreme cold snap. (I warn you, it is a little long).

The temperature was in the single digits, with a wind chill of bitterly cold negatives. It had snowed a few days before, and now piles of snow lay everywhere where it had been shoveled or plowed off the path. Snow is beautiful, but is also one of the arch-nemeses of a blind person walking with a stick. The blanket of frozen water covers landmarks that are necessary to hit with the stick to orient yourself, and snow piles are completely unpleasant to climb. Nevertheless, I made my way to work as usual…I can’t let a little snow keep me down.

For some reason, I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses, which blinded me even more than usual, as everything was reflecting the sun, and I couldn’t see much but neon lights in my eyes. As I walked my usual path from the train, I noted that a sidewalk that had been previously covered with snow had been shoveled, making it easier to walk today. Sweet. I hurried along. I work near water, which always amplifies the wind. Today, the never-ending wind was cutting right through my coat, gloves, and shoes, and my fingers and toes were going numb fast.

I made it to the corner. My office building is just across the street. I’m in the home stretch…hurray! There is only one problem with this street crossing…no traffic light. There is a traffic light on the next block over, but it is way too cold and snowy to walk an extra 2 blocks just to catch the light. Besides, this road isn’t too heavily trafficked, but when the cars come – they come fast. This fact makes me extra cautious, as I don’t particularly want to become an asphalt pancake. So I always wait extra long to make sure there are no cars coming.

When it snows, every corner becomes the home of a giant snow pile, and this corner is no exception. Except today, I found the pile to be larger than it was the day before, which is weird because it hadn’t snowed. I climbed the pile and stood there with the wind constantly cutting through my coat, and waited until I was sure there was no traffic. Then, from a car in the street I hear “Go. Go go! Go now!” the person was obviously trying to get me to cross the street. I took the cue and scrambled over the pile to get across. “Straight, straight…you’re almost there. Go straight!” I had hit the corner of the street “I want to go left!” I yelled back, and turned the corner, hitting a snow drift. What the…? This wasn’t here before… I walked on. Getting to the end of the block, I turned the corner, happy to finally get to the office. Bang! I hit…a car??? What is going on here?? Why is a car parked on the sidewalk in front of the door? I walk around the car, but no door was to be found. Now, I was freaking out. My fingers and toes were completely numb, and I had no clue where I was. Frantically, I took out my phone and tried to launch my GPS app. I had to take off my gloves and could barely operate the phone. Plus, the voice over was on an extremely low volume, since last time I had used it in my house. I tried to get the speaker louder, but my fingers didn’t want to work. Finally I got it loud enough to tell me where I was. The address made no sense. It had the same street name, but was a block over? Panic mode set in. My hands and feet hurt. How could this have happened? I did everything the same as usual…and how am I here? I couldn’t feel my fingers to type an address into my GPS. I stood there frozen, trying to figure out my next plan of action.

Then…an angel emerged from the building I was standing in front of. I never do this, but I called to get his attention. I told him where I was looking for, and after some thought he surmised that it was probably the building across the road. I thanked him, and headed with uncertainty that way. He asked if I needed help. I answered that I would be okay, but after seeing my disoriented condition, he decided to accompany me anyway. As we walked, he asked if it was my first day. “No, I’ve worked here almost 6 months. I have no clue how this could have happened.”

When we came to the building I realized that I had landed diagonally on the opposite corner of the building than I should have been, and we walked around the corner. I thanked him profusely, and went to work, perplexed at what had just happened.

All day I thought about it. I couldn’t figure out how that happened. Finally I came to this conclusion, and it is still the only one that makes sense – When the guy in the car was yelling at me to go, I scrambled over the pile on a diagonal, not straight. Since I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses, I was more blinded than usual, and didn’t see the shadow of my building, and so ended up on the opposite side of the street facing the wrong way. I turned left as usual, but walked down the wrong block. Mystery solved.

It’s rather embarrassing that I got lost on a block I know so well. A little scary too. When pondering over this, I decided that I was going to apply for a guide dog, something I have been considering for months, but always too undecided to start the process. This situation made my decision. I know these dogs can learn frequented locations. There is no way I would’ve gotten lost with a dog.

Long story longer, I have applied and will be writing about my journey to dog-dom.