I have always been "outside the box" because, well, blindness puts a person in the wrong location more often than not. I’ve walked into the Women’s Room at airports; the broom closet; and once, famously, I walked into the morgue at the University of Iowa’s hospital when I was looking for out patient services.
I used to fret about being so inordinately messed up. I used to think that I should really be like everyone else. Then, slowly, almost so slowly one could call it geological, like the erosion of a coastal shelf, I began to understand that I would never occupy public space like sighted people.
In short I had a realization: I’m not a blind person who is trying to be a sighted person. I’m a blind person. That’s a big difference. You could say that it’s like the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. I am a blind person who roams about the world and the whims of architects and the painted lines don’t mean a thing to me. There’s nothing I can do about this fact.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t plan to enter the Ladies Room at the Madison, Wisconsin Municipal Airport. I just wind up walking in because I’ve already asked two passersby if the rest rooms are nearby and both have said ever so helpfully that "it’s over there" and presumably they pointed in the manner of all sighted people who persist in this gambit even though they are talking to a blind person with a dog.
So I take the sighted people literally and head "over there" and wind up in the female rest room and I can assure you that there’s usually a gasp or a cry of odd delight. Who after all but a blind man can enter that zone without the corresponding and lurid subtexts of a suspicious society. And let’s face it. When women see the beautiful guide dog, well it’s all over. I confess that I could probably have been married more than once given that peculiar avenue of the lost and my place upon it.
But I digress. I am always lost and I spend tons of time talking to strangers. That’s another way in American culture to be "out of the box" since no one talks to anyone else in the USA if they can help it. I stand on street corners in various cities and talk at top volume to people I can’t see and I say things like: "Is this Lexington Avenue?" And lo and behold people respond with the correct answer. And they always seem a little astonished that they have indeed found their respective voices. In this way I help odd people who I do not know find their individual ways out of their respective and private boxes.
Sometimes I think I should just rent myself out. I’m a walking version of street theater. Like all people with disabilities…