Thursday, May 2, 2013

Do I Discriminate Against Blind People?

I recently awoke from another one of my oddball dreams. It was the latest in a series of head-scratchers, the follow-up to an unconscious nocturnal mini-drama in which I was plopped right into the middle of a fake General Hospital storyline. (See, I am a card-carrying nerd!)

In the dream in question, though, I was not in Port Charles but once again living in the apartment complex in Melbourne that I called home for the first three and a half months of this year, only it had doubled in size from two to four stories. I was waiting at home for the arrival of someone with whom I was going to do unspecified business.

Knock, knock, knock.

I went to the door, expecting to greet a typical Aussie lady who'd have pen and paper in hand, ready to take notes. When I opened it, a giant dog as big as a small horse rushed in, followed by a timid-looking woman holding a telescoping cane. She was blind?!

My mind immediately began to race, running around as aimlessly and clumsily as that dog. I'd had no idea that the woman I'd previously only spoken to on the phone was blind, and she hadn't told me. Though her visual impairment made me somewhat uncomfortable (possibly because, as in real life, I couldn't stop wondering, What if that were me?), I told myself that I didn't have a problem doing business with her. It was the dog that concerned me. He was acting more like a bull in a china shop, running from corner to corner, knocking over everything in his path and chomping anything he could sink his teeth into.

The dog had to go. It's not just that the building had a policy against pets (one that I was pretty certain the management would have overlooked, though I'm not sure where Australia stands on political correctness), but he was completely invading my personal space and making a mess of it.

What was a neat freak to do? Should I castigate my visitor, the human one, for her lack of full disclosure? Was she even required to disclose anything? Though I don't know what business she was to conduct for me, I knew in the dream that it didn't necessarily require her to possess her sense of sight. But I was uncomfortable in the presence of this blind woman and her dog, and not just because the dog was destroying my apartment. In a way, that was the least of my concerns in that moment.

I felt like Blanche in the episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche gave her number to a guy who asked her out in a bar and didn't realize he was blind until he showed up at her apartment for their first date. (She had a similar situation with a guy in a wheelchair in the public library once -- that girl's powers of observation were truly shot!) I can't say that the same thing might not have happened to me. I've had few interactions with blind people in real life, which might explain why I was so ill at ease. In fact, the only one I can remember having was the time last year that I sat next to a chatty guy on a nine-hour flight from Bangkok to Melbourne, and I didn't even realize he was blind until I saw him walking through the terminal carrying a telescoping cane after we'd landed.

I've often wondered how I would feel about dating a blind person. Unlike Blanche, I'd be less worried about wondering what he saw in me if he couldn't see me and be more concerned about the limitations it would put on our activities. But then if he looked like Justin Kirk, who played the hot blind guy in the film version of Love! Valour! Compassion!, it probably wouldn't matter.

But this wasn't Love! Valour! Compassion!. It was a dream that was quickly turning into a nightmare. I felt like a gay guy on Grindr standing in front of someone who looked a lot better in his photos. I wasn't sure how far the blind woman had traveled to get to me, but I was certain it had taken a considerable effort. I couldn't treat her like a Grindr pick-up and casually send her on her way.

When I woke up before the denouement, I was disappointed because I really wanted to see what happened next? Would I pretend that it was perfectly normal to have a mad dog on the loose in my apartment and excuse the woman for not controlling him because she was blind and had other things to worry about? Would I tell her that the building doesn't allow pets, and her friend would have to wait outside? Or would I come up with some brilliant excuse to excuse myself from requiring her services?

I'll never know what I ended up doing, and I'm still not sure what I'd do if I were in the same situation during regular waking hours. And the worst part of it is that I can't help but hope I never have to find out.
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