Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dreaded Drop Route Day

Too soon the day arrived for me to prove my nettle and my sleuthing skills. How would I do? My trainer and I would be dropped between the perimeters of four previously-mentioned directional boundaries. Only my father could guess how the email had panicked me. My dad knew best how muddled I got when it came to directions (north/south/east/west).
I pictured my father looking down on me that day, full of interest in seeing how I fared. I guess he would chuckle now and then and shake his head in the habit he had when he was amused by the struggle of something he considered as easy as breathing. Of course, my father would try to point me in the right direction. Like Chet, Dad always had a handle on how to get around town! "OK Dad, help me out down here!"
I had my sleep shades on. "Let's head out."

Although I tried to make a mental picture of the streets Chet described to me, I figured my best plan of operation would be to choose a direction and follow that way for awhile. I'd ask my first question soon enough.

"Hey, where's the sun?" I joked, "Isn't its direction supposed to be one of our clues?" Did it rise in the east and set in the west? So, if that's right, will it fall on my right or left shoulder? Be behind me or in front of me? I tilted my face toward the sky. Nope, no sun. The sky must be gray.

I listened for a train. I closed my eyes and concentrated. Was that a whistle? Nooo, no train so far. How many minutes had gone by? That thought tickled me. As children, how many times had we asked that very same question on our way to Grandma Florence's house? Come on, Amy, get serious about this task!

We walked for awhile in silence. Sometimes I had to free my cane from some holes or slats of some kind as I walked.

"Do you notice any landmarks yet? Tap your cane to the right. Shoreline it." He was telling me to see if there was constant barrier to the right, and if so, what was it?

"I don't know, Chet, it seems as if we've been walking along this high barrier for quite awhile. Do you think it's a wall?"

"Feel it with your cane," he suggested. "Is that what it feels like?"

I tapped lightly, first low and worked my cane higher. "Noooo, not a wall, but something. I dunno what."

We kept going. "It's got a hole in Chet, the wall does. It's narrow or something. Sometimes it isn't there. There's like space. Oooh, what could it be?"

"Hmmm," Chet knew, I could tell.

"Stop and feel it with your hand." Chet suggested after some time. So, I did.

"Wow, that's thin and heavy. Che-et! CHET! Is it a cemetery gate?" I had to know!

"I think it iii..sss." though sing-songy, I detected unmistakable triumph in his voice, "So, what does this mean?"

Nothing to me. Where are the cemeteries in Erie? Could we be by the McDonalds on Peninsula Dr? I had a dim recollection of driving past there with my dad on the way home from work one day.

"Which direction do we need to go?" Chet was pushing it.

I shrugged. Bit my bottom lip. I really had no idea. "Let's keep going this way." I doggedly led us on in the same direction until I remembered my "Get-out-of-jail" key. "Let's ask someone!"

Just then the sun came out. It shone on my head. A lot of good that did me! What clue did that provide?

"AMY, STOP! Do you hear that sound in front of you?"

"Hmm, it's a vehicle. But it must not be moving now."

Instead of walking around the vehicle to let it pass, I tapped the window.

A startled woman's voice sounded, "Oh my! What?! May I help you?"

"Maybe this kind woman will help us out," Chet softened my disruption.

"Sorry to scare you. Can you tell me what street we are on and uh, what direction you are heading."

"A-ha!" I heard Chet exclaim. By her answers, Chet knew exactly where we were.

I paid attention then. I picked up on his excitement and took his cues. After that, I always guessed the direction correctly. His voice gave it away. I became confident and very interested in our adventure.

We went below the street level, under a train crossing (like a tunnel). Chet was disappointed there was no train running at that time nor did we hear any trains at any other time to aid me in our orientation. "It's a great tool," he said with regret. "This traffic flow has helped us considerably. Yes, indeed."

In the end, we made it to his office just slightly over the time limit. (My earlier aimlessness slowed us down, I presumed.

But it's strange. Upon arriving there, I felt sooo proud of myself. I completely lost sight of the fact that I'd tuned into Chet's verbal clues and trusted them, more than the true physical landmarks that I encountered along the way with my cane. It was as if I had done this major feat on my own two feet exactly as Chet had planned for me to do! The fact is, at that moment I was walking on air!

"Let's get the elevator. Can you find which is the third floor?" Chet questioned.

I felt for the Braille. I pressed the button.

"Can we talk to Rebecca?" I asked, still in my euphoric state.

"Let me see if she is in the building," Chet aeemed only too glad to fulfill my every wish. He was so proud of me, too! "Luck is with us. Here she is," Chet presented her.

"You're doing so great," my case worker gushed.

I grinned and chattered about the experience, still completely wowed. Then I turned ... and walked directly into the wall. Smack! Rebecca sounded concerned, "Oh Amy, are you okay?"

"Oh, sure." Owwwwwwww. That hurt! Not only my head but my pride.

It also smacked some sense into me. I remembered I still really had little knowledge of directions - but I had an excellent ear for gaging Chet's excitement. Without Chet, I'd be lost. But then, he is my trainer. I was actually trained.Well, it was a combination of voice cues and figuring out the landmarks really. I smiled. Actually, I grinned. My lips stretched as far as they could go. I am sure my teeth were showing. This was a fabulous day in my life. I was not going to rob myself of one iota of joy.

Dad, I may not be familiar yet with directions in Erie, but I found a way to make it to where I needed to go.

I could feel him nod in agreement, and imagined he'd
have shrugged in his easygoing way and said, "That's all she wrote." I reveled in the memory of his favorite expression.

Could life get any better?

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