One out of five people ask me if I can drive when they first learn that I’m legally blind and every time they ask, it’s like they slapped me. I don’t let them see my reaction, but my visceral response takes all my power not to flinch. Is this the deciding factor for them, if I could drive would they equate my visual impairment with their own need for reading glasses?
It happened this morning and I wanted to know why this question comes up so much. And why does it take my breath away?
The latter is easy. Driving is the thing I miss most. As I write this I’m craving McDonald’s French fries in the worst way for some unknown reason and I can’t go get them. I Uber, my husband and friends are EXTREMELY generous, taking me shopping and to appointments. But driving is freedom and independence. It’s alone time with your music blaring and your thoughts unfiltered. It’s as natural as walking and talking. It is, to me, everything . . . and the one thing I cannot do since I lost my sight.
The former is not for me to explain, so I asked the woman I just met why she wanted to know if I can drive. She replied, “Became when you said you were legally blind, the first thing I thought of was what if I lost my ability to drive? Oh my god. How would I get groceries or pick up a latte or get some quiet time away from my family? It wasn’t until you walked away that I considered all the million little things I do every day.”
I thanked her for her candidness and sat back down at a nearby table. It made perfect sense. If I love driving that much why wouldn’t other people too? My sensitivity to the subject is what causes my Pavlovian pain. A self-inflicted gunshot wound that someone else innocently fired.
Seven years after waking up blind I’m still learning to see things in a different way. Unfortunately, I can’t see other cars, traffic lights, signs. pedestrians or the road from any angle. I’m sure, however, that somehow I’d be able to spot the Golden Arches.