Safety vs. Independence

 

 

As a Deaf-blind person, I’ve faced the conflict between safety and independence several times. On a recent week-long trip to England with my husband, I confronted this concern once again.

During the actual six days of our visit, my husband had to work or be in meetings at least two. I actually relished the prospect of those two days alone to finish up a writing project.

Dave, my guide dog, was back home in Pittsburgh. We’d boarded him, since England required expensive veterinary paper work, another costly chip, and a fee for Pennsylvania state forms, so I made do with my cane. Our room had access to food and a bathroom, though inconsistent we fi and front desk help. No problem. I planned to utilize MSWord, not the internet. I also wasn’t marvelously oriented to the inn, let alone the neighborhood, but I assumed the room provided all my needs. And so, it did—the first day.

The second day, however, it failed me. My husband didn’t return when expected. At first, I didn’t worry. The archives must have been open longer than he’d thought, and he was taking advantage of the additional time. When he still hadn’t shown an hour later, though, I worried. I couldn’t access him by phone or e-mail. He could have been locked in the castle tower containing the manuscripts by accident or even design—mugged and beaten on the walk home. He could have had a heart attack, even though he didn’t have any health problems. He was certainly old enough for surprise illnesses.

And if any of these things had happened, he wouldn’t be able to reach me by phone or e-mail. Plus, probably the archivist had no contact info for me, no idea of my whereabouts. A mugger wouldn’t care, and the paramedics couldn’t reach me, even if they’d tried me in the numerous Alexanders in Bob’s cell’s contact list.

I tried to quell the hysteria by rational action. I thumped to the front desk, hoping to get help to call the archivist whose name I did know—desk unoccupied. I tapped back to my room. In another half hour I’d begin knocking on strangers’ doors or, worse, screaming for attention. And that’s when Bob appeared, buoyant, breathless with excitement.

“The archivist could stay till 6, and, Sally, I found every record I needed.”

I slumped on the bed. “we can’t do this anymore. I’m on foreign soil, and I’m not independent here. I should never be without cell and e-mail reception unless I have a land line or solid mastery of the building and the neighborhood.”

Bob sat. “Oh, God, that’s true.”

We realized we hadn’t faced the potential risks of disability, older age, downed electronics, etc. Clearly, in new terra firma, we needed to prepare responsibly and take certain measures to ensure safety. Big wake-up call for future travel!

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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