When it comes to being legally blind, I’ve never taken myself too seriously. I’ve found that humor is a great way to help folks through their discomfort when it comes to interacting with me. There was one time in my life though where someone was all too eager to support me, and a situation that I thought would have been utterly hilarious turned out to be a major let-down.
When I was a junior in high school, I attended the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. Since only juniors and seniors attend, this was my first time working with a lot of folks who’d never worked with a blind person before, so I thought I was going to be funny. I planned an elaborate joke that was supposed to make everyone laugh. It didn’t quite turn out that way though.
Step one in the prank involved my academic advisor. I went to him and asked to add driver’s ed to my schedule. He seemed pretty confused, but I explained my plan to him. “I want to take this drop/add slip to Dr. Lambert and ask him to order books for me. First, I’ll ask him if he can get the books in Braille, and then I’ll change my mind and ask for books on tape so I can listen to them while I drive.”
My advisor got a good chuckle out of the whole thing and he sent me on my way with a drop/add slip for driver’s ed.
I went over the plan in my head as I walked to office of the gentleman who helped me with accessibility issues. I was going to walk into his office, hand him the slip from my advisor, and say, “I was hoping you could order some books for me. I’d like them in Braille.” Then, after pausing dramatically, I was going to say, “Or wait a minute! I’d rather have them on tape so I can listen to them while I drive.” And then we were all supposed to get a good laugh. But sadly, that isn’t what happened.
I walked into Dr. Lambert’s office and asked to speak with him. Fortunately, he was there and came right out to talk with me. I handed him the slip, and executed the first part of my plan, asking him to order the books in Braille. Before I could add the part about getting the books on tape, he eagerly agreed to order the books for me.
Wait a minute! This wasn’t how this was supposed to go. He was supposed to understand that I wasn’t serious, and we were all supposed to laugh. His willingness to help ruined my prank! Determined to get a laugh though, I asked about books on tape. God bless him, he still didn’t understand that I was just joking.
After an awkward pause, I finally explained my plan — that I was trying to play a prank — and then he finally laughed. Rarely had I felt as defeated as I felt just then, but fortunately for me, I’m pretty sure that all the folks who were involved in said prank still remember it all these years later. In fact, one of the staff member’s dreamed up an idea to get Purdue to help develop a self-driving car to help in the endeavor. Oddly enough, something that was science fiction back in the early ‘90s is science reality less than 30 years later.