all photos courtesy of George Schiavone The sighted world does not put stuff back where they found it. Something placed just a couple of inches away from its designated spot can send a blind person on a sometimes endless wild goose chase to find it.
Your toothpaste put down by your sighted wife a foot away from its usual spot just to the right of the sink, can be annoying, and if placed on the other side of the sink, grounds for divorce. I recall once picking up the toothpaste in its correct spot, twisting off the cap, squeezing a dollop of paste onto my tongue, and brushing with abandon. Within seconds my tongue and lips were numb, the understandable result of brushing my teeth with my wife’s diaphragm jelly.
The Housekeeper and the Spray Cleaner.
Housekeepers can be really difficult because the blind person assumes the HK automatically understands the importance of putting stuff back. And if not, surely once you point out the importance of doing so, they get it. But sometimes they don’t.
I had a HK who wouldn’t put my spray cleaner back in its place all the way to the left under the kitchen sink – possibly the easiest spot for a retrievably impaired sightling to remember. After the third time addressing her baffling behavior, I asked her why she wouldn’t put the cleaner back in the same place. She apologized again, but this time also asked: “Why do you need it?” Once my brain cooled down from almost bursting into flames, I asked her what happens if my dog vomits, or I spill something nasty on my counter, or have to clean the singed hair off the top of my head after combusting from being asked a really dumb question? I can’t report with certainty if the deer –in-the-headlights look was on her face, but the long pause before she spoke again suggested that she was beaming with that special look.
After the fourth time my spray cleaner was missing, I bought a second bottle and hid it in my second bedroom closet. It’s always there, steadfast and ready for action.
I’m no longer married and that particular housekeeper no longer works for me. I can’t say it is just because they didn’t put stuff back, but there is certainly something missing in my life for which I am most grateful.
Practitioners of Retrievability
My two children are naturals at “retrievability” (a term coined by my buddy George) – putting things back in their specific spot so you can retrieve them easily with no angst or drama. Maybe that’s the key – train ‘em when they’re young. Unfortunately, blind parents aren’t in the majority, so there are only a few thousand adults, who were once children of blind parents, who practice this time honored tradition of putting stuff back.
I do notice that I do not constantly search for my keys and my cell phone like most of my sighted friends do. One of my pals actually puts his keys in my refrigerator when he comes over to visit. He is a practitioner of retrievability.
For blind folks, retrievability is survival; for sightlings, it’s a good idea.
Another equally troublesome behavior is when someone brings something to you and says, “I’m putting it on the table.” A table’s a big place. “I’m putting the candy on the corner beside the fruit bowl,” is much better. Or when you ask where something is and you’re told, “It’s right there.” “There” means nothing to a blind dude.
I once thought that these curious behaviors were compliments to me because the sightling forgot I was blind and was treating me like a sighted person. I realized I was mistaken when my dog recently threw up on my hall carpet and I hopped over to the cabinet below the kitchen sink and once again reached down into that empty void where the spray cleaner belonged.
My kids get agitated with me because I ask them after the fact if they put things away, turned off the lights and cleaned up their mess. But they are all forgiving as they know of my ongoing struggle with the sightlings of the world who put stuff down randomly, carelessly, arbitrarily, haphazardly, passive aggressively, aimlessly, casually, indiscriminately, indifferently, thoughtlessly, unintentionally, inadvertently, erratically, insensitively, or inconsiderately.
And so my daughter said, “Everything is clean, the trash is in the trash, and all the lights are out,” as she left my house last night. Ah!...a moment in Utopia.