Madge and I walked through the automatic doors and were greeted by an air conditioned gust of wind. Like most blind people, I depend on store clerks to help me with my shopping. Some clerks really get into the “helping mood” and even suggest deals and products, while other clerks channel their first school dance experience, making us both feel like a pair of seventh graders. I called out, “Can I get some help please?” and Madge lay down on the floor, almost as if she knew the service was going to be slow. A few more seconds went by and I called for help again. It was my first time visiting this particular pharmacy near school, and I began to grow restless.
I was startled out of my haze of frustration by a rumbling deep voice. I looked up toward the ceiling and the man repeated himself, “Need a hand?” The man’s voice seemed to be coming from past the florescent light bulbs and roof and straight out of the clouds. “Wow, you are really tall!” I huffed. The stranger chuckled and offered his arm; his massive structure was confirmed when I grabbed his elbow and realized it was at my shoulder level. Although 5’8” is not tall, I was not used to feeling this short and my first instinct was to start skipping like a kindergartener. I attempted to push my awkwardness away, yet it still surfaced in the form of a giggle.
The giant, Madge and I began to make our way through the store, slowly crossing items off my shopping list. When we got to the final item, I sensed my face get warm as the giant said, “Condoms are over this way.” I could not figure out why this man made me feel so weird and self-conscious, but not wanting to act immature I started to ask him questions, “So, what kind do they have here?” He began to elaborate on the various styles, flavors and even colors of condoms the store was displaying. We spent a good five minutes discussing jimmies until I made a decision.
I made my purchases and Madge guided me out of the store. I heard the giant behind me ask, “Need a ride too?” Surprised he had also stepped out the drug store with me, I shyly retorted, “Are you on your break or something?” The man laughed and said, “Nope, I don’t work here.” I awkwardly said, “No, thanks,” And Madge and I sped back to campus.
There are people in this world who bring out the adolescent in all of us. Maybe I bring out that adolescent behavior for people who are not used to being around the blind. The giant reminded me that reactions are not always personal, but a lack of exposure.
Belo Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and the author of Blind: A Memoir. Learn more at belocipriani.com
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