You know that the world’s going to Hades in a hand basket when a sad story, such as the one broadcast all over mainstream media today, leaves people feeling so mixed up. Or is it just me? A woman in Nova Scotia drowned a couple of kittens last summer and got fined $5.00 for it in court today. Yeah, yeah…this initial ‘teaser’ lead bit on the radio leaves you thinking…”You crazy, sadistic b..tch! They should drown YOU”. Then, you hear the sad flip-side of the story; she fed a stray cat, fed it some more (The Cat Came Back is the song that comes to mind- Harry S. Miller 1893), and bing, bang…she’s got one cat+2 kittens… She’s poor, can’t get help from her town’s officials, and decides to euthanize the kitties in a bucket. Groan. Of course, Suspicious Minds (written by Memphis songwriter, Mark James and the last #1 hit for Elvis Presley in 1969- his last) like mine ask, ‘What cat has only two kittens’!? Maybe she lied about THAT too…and actually drowned a litter of 14. Not that it matters much, they’re all dead, regardless. But NOW, the SPCA is crying foul. They want “BIG FINES AND JAIL TIME”! said their head mouthpiece with emotion. My question? Where were you guys when this nutty, albeit well intentioned stray-cat-feeding woman was busy phoning around, trying to find someone to off the felines? Sure, “dangerous precedents are being set”, yada, yada, but NOW you’re worried that everyone is going to think it’s OK to euthanize Fluffo ’cause it’ll only cost five bucks instead of the usual $179.00 at the vet? Sigh. Then, the legal beagle for this woman (gotta be legal aid lawyer) said a bunch of really stupid things (he compared his client’s action against that of the person “who hanged that dog in Point Pleasant Park” …I can do without hearing that sort of thing). It did not endear me to the situation or to this woman…still…she’s poor…she loves the animals…a regular Doctor Doolittle ….who simply done too much. “We’re caught in a trap….”
That’s right. I just had to step out of my incognito state. I’ve been away, not dead! Give me a break RCMP! Mr. Robert Dziekanski is dead, however, thanks to a bunch (one in particular) of Tazer-trigger happy goofs (oops, I mean officers) who zapped the life out of this poor Polish guy who simply had the bad luck to choose the Vancouver airport to land in on his first visit to Canadian soil. I guess he never got to the ‘soil’ part of Canada. He was too busy wandering aimlessly for a zillion hours, lost, tired, jet-lagged, jonsing for a smoke, in a bloody nightmare welcome to the land-‘O-moose- on-a- postcard, imitation- maple- syrup- products-come-Duty Free shops and baggage carousels, trying to get ANYBODY to speak to him in his own language in an INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT! His big mistake was picking up that most dangerous of weapons, the dreaded ‘stapler’. Yeah right, coppers, take down this exhausted guy who’s been on a plane for 15 hours and in an airport twilight zone for 18 hours with FIVE TAZER BLASTS! Then, goof around some more (make sure he’s REALLY dead, eh?) while you all try to decide what to say to the boss (that would be the RCMP big cheeses?… then a public Inquiry)…oh, I guess the whole damn country wants to know now, huh? Who would have thought that it would get all blown out of proportion like this?! I bet that’s gonna put a crimp in your Easter holidays. Ah, shucks fellows. You forgot to watch out for the babe walking by with her dreaded cell phone/video camera! May you (especially you, Millington) all get nailed to some big internal cross of conscience come this Easter time as you celebrate the christian tradition. Frankly, I’m not into that ‘jesus rises’ stuff, being a broad-minded, liberal thinking UU and all…but I still like the chocolate. Sigh. I guess I’m back from Hiatus
I have been very hyped about this election. Why? I have chomped at the bit in anticipation of dramatically and meaningfully casting my inaccessible ballot at the polling station. Let me remind you about the core elements of a democratic vote; secret, independent and verifiable. I have gone on and on, to EVERYONE who will listen and to some who won’t, about the importance of these elements, the sanctity of the electoral process, and how I am denied this right by virtue of inaction on the part of Elections Canada. I am blind, as are hundreds of thousands of other voters. We do not have electronic voting in Canada. We do not have telephone voting. We do not have voting machines at the polls. We do not have Braille ballots. I thought that today I would be pumped and ready to let loose my schpeel at the Presbyterian church where I would be voting. I ran through my dialogue, my diatribe, my kvetching complaint, like a Shakespearean actor preparing for Stratford.
Here’s what really happened. I made it to the church, and found myself outside with a woman in a wheelchair attempting to open a monstrously large door (no automatic opener). I opened it for her, but it was not wide enough. A worker from the poll came and helped to open another door. I commented wryly about Elections Canada and their accessible voting sites. She commiserated. By this point, I had, for some reason, already lost my oomph. Maybe it’s the time of year, or ‘my time of the month’. Some one came over as Opal and I walked into the large church basement. The usual useless pointing and “over there” was followed by an arm-grab which I yanked away. Someone else gave sensible directions to the table I needed. My ID was requested and checked. I did NOT give a long-winded lecture on the difficulty blind people have in meeting ID requirements, given that we don’t have driver’s license and many of us have no passport. Some of us choose not to have or use a charitable ID (CNIB) for reasons which are too numerous and complicated for this blog. I provided my stunning photo ID cards which have a photo of Opal and me posing together (CGDB and the Attorney General of Ontario), but my Guide dog ID cards do not have my address on them, so I added a phone bill. I had considered bringing a Braille bill, but I did not want to be turned away. At this point, the DRO asked if I wanted a Braille template. My interest peaked, as I thought I had discussed this ad nauseum with Silvestre from elections Canada and had confirmed there would be no Braille on the ballot, and to expect the usual flaky template. Now I had no idea what they were offering me. I asked (just to confuse them) if it was contracted or uncontracted Braille. The had no clue, so I let them off the hook and told them that I knew both, so it did’nt matter. The DRO put the ballot into the ‘Braille template’ and then came the offer to “come into the voting area with you”. I said I would pass, given that I had this allegedly accessible Braille template in my hand. Opal and I parked ourselves behind the privacy screen at a little table. I started to read the template. Numbers. Just numbers! I called out, “um, there’s no names here, just numbers”. The old lady who had grabbed me when I came in, offered to read the names to me. I said that would not do. The DRO guy came over and offered to read them “as they appear in sequence. then you pick the braille number”, he said with full expectation that somehow this would be acceptable to me. I had PLANNED to make a big ‘to-do’, maybe proclaim myself the Rosa Parks of the voting blind, given that I am repeatedly told that blind people ‘have found this acceptable for years’. Instead, I told him “no thanks”, and ” if I can’t read it for myself”…( in a country where government material must be provided in alternate formats by law), “I’ll have to spoil my ballot”. He apologised (as everyone always does). I scrawled multiple X’s in allthe holes in my template and ballot and handed it to the old lady. She wisely did not attempt to go into the insufferably patronizing routine of allowing me to put it in the box, but quickly disposed of it, stuffing it into the ballot box herself. I walked out, declining someone’s eager offer for me to use the elevator, saying, “my legs are fine, we’ll use the stairs”. I left deflated. I did not call the media, or my party delegate, or the PM (who doesn’t give a flying f…k anyway), or the queen, or Silvestre at Elections Canada (who I’m guessing was pretty busy today). Instead, I went for my routine blood work and called it a day. I wish I was one of those clever musicians, ’cause I’d be writing a tune tonight…’Voting Day Blues’.
STOP PRESS!!! Megan Leslie, newbie NDP canditate and personal acquaiantance declared winner of Halifax riding! Go get em in Ottawa, kid…and remember your roots…and your blind friends…
When mum woke me up at 4:30 (!) this morning, I thought that we might be going to the airport again. That wasn’t it. Instead we got up and ate breakfast, got ready then got into a cab and drove around. We ended up downtown. Mum tried to get us into the public gardens so that I could pee, but it was way too early and the gates were closed. We walked a bit and then went into to a building nearby. A guy in a uniform (Jeff, the commissionaire/security) put an ID sticker on mum. He unlocked the inside door (great security building) and took us to the lift. Jeff is afraid of lifts, so he ran up the stairs instead and met us on the 3rd floor. (Poor guy got stuck in a lift once). We went through more locked doors (they must have some very expensive radios in here, ’cause mum said this is a radio station). A nice lady came over and told mum that she could have coffee while we waited…and she asked if she could pat me. Mum said no, but thanks for asking. We sat and listened to the radio. I don’t get it. Why couldn’t we just listen at home? Why did we have to go to a special place to listen to the radio? They play the same program on CBC radio 1 at home… you know, Information Morning with Don Connolly and Elizabeth Logan? Don is the guy with a dog named, Oreo. The lady came back and mum asked me to follow her. We went through more doors. Finally, we found a big room with a table. A lady and a man were sitting and talking to a microphone, like mum has at home for her computer, except these ones were bigger. I noticed that the man smelled very nice….like a dog. I’m positive he is Oreo’s dad…so that means he IS Don Connolly. Mum and Don talked and talked into the microphones..blah, blah, blah. I fell asleep. Sheesh, can you blame me? Up so early, no nap and boring talk. Then mum was whispering very loud for me to wake up. Don and Elizabeth were talking to their microphones again, but not to mum. We snuck out with the lady who had helped us in earlier. When we got back down to the desk at the front, Jeff (who listened to the same radio…they’re everywhere in this place!) told mum that she had done a good job. I thought I was the one with a job! We left, walked a lot, got on a bus and then rode over to the grocery store. Mum tried to explain that SHE was talking on the radio today. If her friends missed it ’cause it was on so early or they live outside of Nova Scotia, they will be able to hear the interview on the Net. Mum will put a link up when she figures it out. We are both going to rest now.
This is the 173 rd blog I have written. The bean (stats) counter on this page reveals that 13,479 + hits have occurred…and still counting like Micky D’s keeps track ….”139,000,000,000,001 (bad burgers) served”. Traffic has been low for some blogs and through the roof for others. I am grateful for the interesting assortment of loyal readers and occasional visitors. I know that some readers occasionally find my opinions harsh, my tone insolent, my satiric wit inappropriate….but I would say this in all seriousness…actually, I think it was Voltaire who said, ” I may not believe in what you say, but I will fight to my death for your right to say it”….
What I do NOT appreciate are misguided comments regarding the content of this blog. Allow me to explain. It seems an individual is on the receiving end of reading (er, listening to someone read TO them) SELECT blogs and select ‘comments’ which I have written in response to reader comments. That person is ‘disturbed’ by my words. My first thoughts are, (now get this straight ‘reader’/paraphrasing guy!!) you are not reading this yourself. Neither of us knows if you are getting an accurate rendition (verbatim and complete) of what I have written. Reading is very subjective and interpretive. Tone, inflection, reading speed, response to punctuation etc are all factors in the process that impact our perception of the text. You, sadly have no control over that because someone else is reading to you and we don’t know how well they are doing that. You have apparently not listened to someone read those numerous blogs I wrote which I know you would find astoundingly interesting, informative, and sympathetic to the human condition. Assuming that you are getting an accurate reading of the controversial ones, my second thought is, GET A GRIP! Yes, I do have strong opinions about many things…the CNIB for example. That is my right. I have not slandered them. They do a fine job of screwing themselves up. As for the mayor and my comment about “short guy with a whiny voice”? I talked to him last night. We kibutzed and laughed. He’s OK with me and my blog. He also is grateful that I work so hard for his city without payment…and he IS short and does have a whiny voice. it seems you are the one with a problem. The problem? You are in that horrible, dependant situation of passively receiving bits of my blog via a third party because you can not access it independently. Frankly, I think THAT is more of an issue than the contents of this blog. That aside, I would say that the essence of any communication and voicing of opinion, lends itself to a contrary or different opinion on the topic by anyone and everyone who hears or reads it. The minute we open our mouths in the morning and begin saying stuff … ” I don’t like big cities, or Republicans, or Liberals, or the taste of chicken, or the movie last night”, someone else is going to have another opinion. That’s life. You would have enjoyed the blogs I wrote that support your like-minded position….on gay rights, homophobia (see ‘God loves Everyone’) tips on independent living, fairness to animals and more. Trouble is, nobody’s reading those to you. Hmm. Maybe you should get over to that charitable organization you feel I trash too much and see if they will find you some computer gear so that you can check my blog yourself. If you do not wish to do so, (or they won’t/can’t give you what you need–a more likely scenario), then realize that I usually voice my opinion and temper it by adding something to the effect that others may not share it. While I may talk ABOUT the organizations or groups that I am involved with, I do not speak FOR them. It seems that your ‘reader’ is doing you a selective disservice. I can not write something that will interest or please every reader all of the time, or even half of them. What I do know is, that many people including: guide dog handlers and puppy-raisers, animal lovers, a jeweler in Australia, an urban planner in the UK, guide dog trainers, a blind guy who applauded my blog on who is suited to having a guide dog, several authors, Unitarians, environmentalists, a micro publisher in California, a gay guy somewhere in the world, a woman in Italy who has a blind friend, a budding film maker, a vacuum cleaner rep, many people who want their bus stops announced, friends, a centre for the blind in the Eastern USA, a small initiative to publish audio books in Africa….all of these people and many more have found something useful in my writing. Others? Some are not happy, but they tend not to comment directly on the blog or to me very much….they just bitch behind my back. The wonderful thing about freedom of speech and the information age, is how the inter-connectedness of the world becomes so evident. This is the end of this discussion my friend…unless your selective ‘reader’ does not pass THIS blog on too.
Sometimes I get a little bored, so I ‘Google’ stuff. Today, I checked out songs about blindness sung by blind people. It seems there aren’t that many…Phew!!! Thank god we’re not ALL maudlin. I found a few though, mostly from old black Southern men (Sonny Terry, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Gary Davis and Blind Roger Hayes). Frankly, I’d be mortified if I had to live with a handle like Blind Helen. It’s bad enough that people refer to me as “Helen With the Dog”. Turns out that blind musicians have better stuff to sing about than their angst about being blind…. love, bad relationships, the world (Mr. Ray Charles does a great job of ‘What a Wonderful World’) and the city (Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’). As for all the SONGS with LYRICS which include the word ‘blind’ or blindness’….sheesh! That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Just as our everyday expressions use the words blind to mean that one is unaware, purposefully oblivious, uncaring etc. (“blind as a bat”, “turn a blind eye”, “love is blind”, “blind rage”, “blind leading the blind”…) song lyrics use them similarly and just as regularly. I’m not claiming that it’s not PC and we should immediately run around tweaking and rewriting all these songs. It might be an idea to think about language and how we use words. As a word nerd, I love to learn about the origin and history of words. I wonder how it came to be that a physical condition morphed into use as a negative adjective and verb.
Listen up cabbies! I’m going to say this once. Here is the not-so-definitive list of things you need to know when you pick up a customer who is blind or partially-sighted.
If you drive a radio cab, or if you get your calls through a computerized dispatch system, chances are that the customer will have specified that they are blind (they should ’cause they can’t expect you to guess). So, when you get to the pick-up location, do not sit in your car and expect the blind person to know that you have arrived. We are not physic. It is impossible to know if the nearby idling vehicle I hear is ‘my cab’ or just some other vehicle at this busy location (like a pimpmobile or a Fed Ex courier or a cab from the wrong company). You must get out of the car and identify yourself as the driver from XYZ cab company. If there is something wrong with your legs, attempt to crank open the window and announce yourself from the comfort of your car.
Notice the guide dog with the person? They will have specified this too upon telephoning. Unless you have a medical certificate which exempts you from having a dog in your car (you would croak from the allergic reaction), then YOU MUST, BY LAW, ACCEPT THE DOG IN YOUR VEHICLE!!! THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS FOR PEOPLE WHO REFUSE ACCESS TO GUIDE DOGS…AND FINES.
Do not charge an ‘extra passenger’ or ‘baggage’ fee for transporting a guide dog (I have experience d this before). If you do so in Halifax, you could lose your taxi permit.
If the person with the guide dog wants to sit in the front with their dog, do not freak out. It is my practice to do so, as recommended by the school where I received my dog. I know that other schools have differing philosophies, but this is what I choose. Notice (as you always do) when we get in, that there is actually much more room for the dog in the front between my legs…yes, even (especially) in those monster luxury cars… than in the back behind the seat. The big hump in the middle of the floor in the back is very constricting. Back seat? No way. If we crash, she will not go flying off a back seat, or be hurled to one side of the cab. It is more comfortable and safer for us both to sit in the front. this works for all cars, even the smallest. She is always well-behaved and will not touch you. (she may sneeze, though, ’cause your car is dusty)
Do not think that because your passenger is blind, that you can travel the most indirect route to get to the destination (boosting the fare), ’cause most of us will notice that you have taken a side trip to Ecum Secum on the way to the corner of Barrington and Duke.
I miss the old days. Taxi meters ticked back in the day. Now, there is no possible way to determine if the requested fare is what actually appears on the meter…however, do not get the idea that charging $17.50 for a one mile ride is something you can get away with.
If your client has a charge slip, or you have a charge slip for them, and you want a signature, then think about how tricky that might be to sign. Me? I won’t sign one. “You sign it”, I say… (you could be asking me to sign up for donating a kidney for all I know)
When you get to wherever the passenger wants to go, ask if they need assistance to get to the entrance of the building, or at the very least, give precise directions…”the is 5 meters straight ahead”. As I suggest to everyone, saying “over there” while pointing is useless (and a bit brainless and thoughtless)
Alert your passenger if you are dropping them off in a puddle or ice patch. (I once stepped out of a cab, slipped on an icy patch, did a pirouette, landing on my knees, resulting in a bruise and torn jeans)