When I walk around with my white cane, people notice. Often in a quiet, observant yet unobtrusive manner. But some people feel the need to interact with me as if the curiosity of seeing someone with a white cane compels them to say or do things that I can only say in a positive way are humorous, in a negative way are odd.
I’m walking down the sidewalk from the bus stop to my husband’s office. A car beeps twice as it passes me. I ignore it. I’m not in the street, no reason for the car to be beeping at me.
Seconds later, the car U-turns and stops, a lane of traffic between us. I am in a populated area. A few cars pass in the opposite direction as the driver says from his open window, “Ma’am, excuse me, Ma’am.”
I’m baffled as to why anyone would feel the need to do this. Someone hollered at me from a car a few months ago. I ignored that address.
“Ma’am, are you legally blind?” he says, as I keep walking and wonder if cars are backed up behind him as he has stopped his vehicle to ask a stranger a non-driving related question.
“Sir,” I say, turning my head towards his white sedan across the street,”It’s none of your business.” I wave my arm forward in hopes of moving him along as I continue walking.
He mumbles something like an apology, retreating his head back into his car like a turtle and accelerates away.
Even if this man has only pure intentions, why would it be okay for him to address me as he did? My protective instincts go into high gear when someone randomly approaches me. I carry a cell phone, I stay aware of my surroundings, and I use public areas as I travel independently.
Where is the discretion, the filtering, the thinking before you open your mouth? I’m happy to educate people about my disability and my accessibility options, but I’m not OK with people asking me blunt questions without an appropriate context.
I’m never OK with rudeness. Our culture of reality TV and aggressiveness leads to some strange personal interactions. When you wield a white cane, you never know what you’re gonna get.