Does every blind person have a driving story? Probably not, but it seems many of us do. I actually did drive up and down a back road a couple of times once, but that’s not the story I’m going to tell. I’ve started using the term, “blind”, because it’s just easier, but I do have some useable vision. I travel with a cain and it does help, but I can and sometimes do go without when it is more of a hindrance, such as when I need my hands for something else. At those times I do have it on my belt. It took me many years to learn that it was better for me to have it than not for the benefit of those around me. It lets them know that I might not see them. I might not know that they’re talking to me. I won’t see a wave from across the room. I might run into them. I might be forgiven a traffic violation or two…or not. Thus begins my story.
On a quiet neighborhood street, I can, or at least I once could, safely ride a bicycle. I used to have one and I used it to and from campus while in school and for errands. A moped, however, is a different matter. You couldn’t convince me of that in my younger days. I couldn’t wait to get some kind of motorized conveyance, and as soon as I could scrape together enough money, I had it. I still marvel that my dad helped me do it, but I’m sure he knew it would be better to help me do it right since I was going to do it anyway. A couple of initial wrecks didn’t slow me down, and soon I had it with me on campus. I’ll probably never know how many times I put myself or others in danger. I can only conclude that God was protecting me. Eventually the school forced me to stop using it on campus and I sold it.
I was at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Near the campus was a wooded hill with a trail that went to the top. I used to go up there and sit. Sometimes I would just sit there. Other times I would study for class. On one beautiful Fall morning I decided to take my study materials and go up there, so I loaded up the basket on the back of my moped and headed out.
As I turned off the two-lane highway south of the campus, I heard the siren. As far as I can remember and surprisingly so now that I think about it, that was only one of two times I was pulled over. I think this was the first, but I knew it was for me. I’ve read that a blind person cannot walk a straight line. I’m not at all sure that’s true, but one thing is true for me. I cannot ride a straight line. There’s always a little correction one way or the other as I notice the drift. Thus I was suspected of drunk driving.
I don’t remember the questions the officer asked me. I hadn’t broken any laws. One could operate a 50cc vehicle without a license and at least while he was watching I didn’t actually break any traffic rules. I just didn’t quite drive in a straight line. What’s wrong with that? As we wrapped up our little conversation, he asked me, “What’s that in your basket?”
“That is a braille writer,” I calmly replied.
He said, “I knew that’s what it was, but I wanted to hear you say it.”
He let me go with an admonition to be careful, and I went on to my destination. No, the brashness of my actions still hadn’t hit home. It would take a few more months and some outside pressure to stop me. I wish that were the only poor decision I made at that time of my life, but those are other stories. It is something to learn from.
We like to say that we have no limitations, but everybody has limitations. Recognizing them is part of growing up. There are some things we can’t do, and lots of others we shouldn’t. The challenge for us is to turn our focus to those things we can and should do. Sometimes we need to push those limits, but be safe out there; and watch out for people like me.