I think that blind guy is staring at me.

I notice that I feel self conscience when I pass people on the sidewalk.

It takes me a little longer (than it used to) to see people, estimate the amount of space they take up, and navigate accordingly. In the process, I’m looking at each individual person, and looking longer than I used to. Now I feel like I’m staring at strangers.

No, scratch that. I feel like people think I’m staring at them… or their children.

Instantly Creepy
Image that you’ve just parked your car. You’re getting out and you see a guy walking up the sidewalk. You see his head turned toward your car. You step out of your car. The guy is moving slow. You walk around the car. He’s looking at you again. You begin walking up the sidewalk in his direction.

As you begin to pass, he looks at your shoes and hat.

What is running through your head at that moment?

My Own Neurosis
I grew up a non-Caucasian in The South. Getting watched while I shop was so normal to me that when I moved to Seattle in 2004 it struck me weird that I wasn’t being constantly monitored.

In Texas, I had people clutch their bags as I pass their table in a restaurant and lock car doors as I pass their car in a parking lot. In 1989, my wife an I were spit on for holding hands at the wrong mall.

Getting stopped by security because my adopted kid sister has blonde hair and being asked “what I’m doing in this neighborhood” on my morning walk was just part of normal life. (Every time I got a new apartment, I got a new walking path… and the phone calls would start… and the patrol cars would come.)

I learned a long time ago that while passing strangers it’s best to smile, nod, and avoid eye contact. It always makes me feel like the butler or the gardener, subservient in some way, but it’s second nature. (I’m not called The Neurotic Nomad for nothing.)

Unfortunately it doesn’t work anymore. As I already mentioned, It takes me a little longer (than it used to) to see people, estimate the amount of space they take up, and navigate accordingly.

“Not Staring” doesn’t work.
The solution up to now was to “not stare” at people, especially women and children, and hope against a collision.

It makes me paranoid I’m going to step on a toddler, but it has really decreased the freaked-out looks on faces as they come into focus.

I smile at blurs, hoping I saw all of them, and look at my feet. I then do a final glance/smile as we pass and hope for a smiling blur in return.

Enter the White Cane
In an effort to alert the women/children of North Seattle that I’m blind, not creepy, I’ve ordered a white cane.

The idea is that if they see the cane, they’ll know I’m not really “staring” so much as “slowly verifying location”.

This will free up some time and allow me to feel neurotic about whether or not I’m wearing the right sunblock or whether or not I turned off the stove before I left the apartment instead of whether I’m going to offend a pair of jiggly boobs before I can even see them.

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