When you are blind, comedy ensues, moments of ridiculous humor can be found if you are a good sport. The ability to laugh at yourself, find humor in what some might call embarrassment is truly good therapy. Over the years, I have witnessed some attempts at trying to make a sitcom or a movie based on being blind, most fail and the ones that don't use blindness as more of a gimmick. There are some rare exceptions where the blind have been portrayed in dramatic roles as well as a few that have used blindness as a plot twist to an action oriented movie. But, when it comes to the comedy of blindness, people get queasy, and in the politically correct times we live in chances are you won’t see it anytime soon. So, today I wanted to share a few of my favorite comedic moments from my life that were courtesy of “Being Blind.” My arsenal is large, very large, and I would say that following me around would make great reality TV because whether it is the trips, falls or banging into anything and everything or the countless animated conversations with nobody, from the outside, being blind must look crazy to most people.
One night my wife and I went to a Comedy Club with another couple. I wear sunglasses just about everywhere I go and this evening was no exception. As we sat at our table, which happened to be at the front, we sat laughing and having a good time. The comedian on stage was being heckled by a very obnoxious and drunk woman at the table next to us. The comedian did his best to ignore her but began to heckle her. That got him nowhere fast, so now, being thoroughly frustrated he began to turn on the audience and guess who he came after first? That’s right, me the guy sitting at the table right in front. He zeroed in on me and began to say things like, “Look at this guy, too cool for school. Look at him, so cool that he has to wear his sunglasses at night. What are you a celebrity, should I know you?” My wife leaned over to me and said, “He is talking to you.” I sat for a minute and then did one little thing that turned the situation around. I raised my cane above my head. This stunned the poor guy, he used a few interlaced expletives as he asked, “No way, you’re kidding me, you're blind? I just gave the business to a blind guy. I am so going to hell for this.” I cleaned it up a bit for you but the guy was really embarrassed and shocked. At the end of the show he sought me out, tried to give me free merchandise and went way overboard apologizing. I didn’t accept the free stuff and told him he had nothing to apologize for. As a matter of fact, I apologized for the drunk woman that kicked the whole thing off. The one thing I asked is that he somehow worked this experience into his act because it was in fact hilarious. I don't know if he ever did.
My next funny blind moment happened in a men’s room. Having to go really, really bad, I quickly hustled towards the urinal unzipping my pants along the way and BOOM, ran square into the back of a very large man already using that particular urinal. He quickly turned around, my face in his very large pectoral muscles as I thought, “Ok, this is it, I am going to get my butt kicked right here in the men’s room.” I had broken the “Bro Code” of never touching another man in the men’s room. Luckily this very large and who I now know to be a very nice man noticed my glasses and my cane. We had a good laugh. However, now, every time I walk into a public restroom I boldly and loudly proclaim, “There is a blind man in the bathroom!” I haven’t had a problem since.
I live in a Loft in downtown Dallas. I know my building pretty well and sometimes I leave my unit to throw trash down the chute or get the mail without my cane. While I know my building well, I learned that some of the people don't know me very well. One day I got on the elevator and I could tell someone else was already on the elevator. I awkwardly said hello and turned to push the button for the lobby and promptly dropped my keys. I bent down and felt around the floor trying to find them, the young lady blurted out, “They are right there, what are you drunk or something!” I slowly rose and turned to where the shrill little voice had come from and replied, “No, but I should have listened to my mom when she told me to stop sitting so close to the TV because I’d go blind and what do you know, she was right!” I then turned around and bent back over to find my keys. She is now much nicer to me when we run into each other. The “Drunk” theme has played out many times in many other situations because as you might guess, sometimes being blind gets just a bit disorienting.
On another occasion, my wife and I were shopping at Costco. Now I love my wife and if there was ever a woman who deserved “Sainthood” it would be her. But, she does have a habit of saying all the time, “It's right there!” So, there we were shopping at Costco, she wanted me to pick up a flat of waters to which I replied, “Where are they?” She said, “Right there in front of you.” Not wanting to get into where exactly right there was I quickly bent over right where I stood to feel for the flat. Instead my head hit the massive metal racks at Costco and a loud gong was heard throughout the store. I was dazed a bit, saw a few stars and ever since then she has been better about telling me things are “Right there.” I want to continue with the gong theme because it plays a part in my daily life. Take for example a time I was walking through Target. For whatever reason, Target is one of a few stores that like to stage their racks so that poles are in the middle of the isle. I don't care how good you are with a cane, every once in a while, as you tap and sweep your cane as you walk you miss the pole and when that happens, bam! your head meets the pole and everybody stops, gasps not knowing how to react. The same is true of what my wife and I now call “Land Mines.” These are the wet floor signs or signs that are set low on the ground that trip each of us up recreating the opening scene from the Dick Van Dyke show where the character, Rob Petrie, walks into a room and promptly trips over what I believe is an ottoman. He quickly jumps up. A move that I too have now perfected.
My last story for this piece is a common one. We all spend time in the kitchen, cupboards, drawers and the open dishwasher are our common enemy. If you are anything like me I have broken many a drawer and cabinet door as well as split my head open and dented my shins more times than I care to count. When we moved into our loft as empty nesters we decided to purchase a very expensive Bosch dishwasher. Spoil ourselves a bit since it was now our “Forever” home and living in a loft space is small and noise travels. One day we were in the kitchen, after dinner, cleaning up. Unaware that the dishwasher was still open I boldly walked through the kitchen and BAM!” I not only hit the open dishwasher door and went face first over it onto the floor, I had hit that door with such force that it tore the door off of the dishwasher so badly that I soon learned that it could not be repaired. When the repairman came out for a repair estimate, and as I stood there with my sunglasses and cane he said, ”Um….. yeah, there isn't a warranty category that covers the blind guy kicking the door off.” I replied, “Well there should be, it’s obviously defective, just look at it!” We both laughed. We now have a very cheap, very easily replaceable dishwasher.
The reason that I decided to write this is because we all have our crosses to bear. We all have something in our life that makes it just a bit more difficult than someone else’s life experience. It is in those moments that we must find the humor rather than the rage, sorrow or pity. We have to laugh at ourselves and the silliness of how our path in this life is peppered with challenges others don't have. Imagining the look on people’s faces as we swat wildly at the branch we didn’t see that brushes your face as you walk by it. Or perhaps the crack in the sidewalk or curb we trip over and flail our arms like some newborn baby taking their first step. Understanding the humor is the best way to deal with the slips, falls and head banging that is part of living in a world that isn't designed for you. A world that doesn’t care if you see it. Rather than looking at the embarrassment as a negative, another reason why you choose to not be part of the world, learn to laugh at yourself, to see the absurdity and rich comedic value. Dick Vandyke made a pretty good living falling over things and he could see. I’ve been accused often of being a glass half full kind of guy most of my life. When I fall, or bang into something or walk into the back of someone in the restroom, when I embarrass myself beyond what most think is acceptable I never let them see me wince. Instead, I make them laugh because in the end, laughter is in truth the best medicine. We only get this one life, we only get the one shot at being the best person we can be in spite of whatever our difficulties are so spend more time enjoying the life you have been given rather than lamenting over it. The next time you walk through that spider web or that branch reaches out and gently touches your face causing you to react, know that this is your “Academy” moment. Do the dance, swat wildly at the air as you scream at your imaginary attacker. Then stop, take a bow and accept your Oscar for best actor or actress in a comedic role. Enjoy the life you have and make the best out of what could be the worst.
Photo below is me on the field dressed as an NFL referee complete with sunglasses and White Cane. Truth is, I'm really not a referee 😎