Friday, September 27, 2019

a day in the life, chapter 6

I continue my work in that vein for a few more hours. The fact I have so little on my plate allows me to continue my various extracurricular pursuits while still getting my work done. These are the best days at work.
Fielding questions from strangers appears to be part of those activities today. The work I do, programming as a blind person, is relatively unique and therefore when people want to know more about this, there's only a handful of people to turn to.
This has led me to some rather interesting encounters over the years already and given the fact I enjoy teaching and explaining things, I would call this one of the good things of my position in general. Being able to empower or enlighten someone who truly wants to learn can make my day and at times, I can do both, which is even better.
In this case, it's another blind person and by their questions, I can tell they haven't done the slightest bit of research by themselves yet. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but I answer their questions and tell them to look up a handful of things to get more information. They appear to be willing to put in the work, let's see where that goes.
As the end of the workday is coming up, I open the time-tracking application this company uses and struggle with it for a while. Weaving around the various accessibility issues, I dutifully log my hours like a good employee and shut down my machine. It's time to go home.
Reaching out my foot under the desk, I locate Ruff's harness and make a bit of a game of trying to lever it up to my hand without having to crawl under the desk for it. Finally succeeding, I roll the chair back, making sure not to roll over Ruff's leash this time as I get up and harness him.
I toss an "Enjoy your evening"  over my shoulder as I direct Ruff in the right direction. Listening carefully for the large objects in the room I make sure he goes the right way.
The steady reverberance of nearby walls, the slightly different sound of nearby doors and glass panes and the ceiling changing in height direct me onwards as I use my footsteps and the occasional click to look around. Ruff snorts happily as he works, the slight changes in his harness telling me he occasionally looks back at me rather than in front of him, something he tends to do when he's feeling playful.
"Pay attention"  I chide him gently, scratching him behind the ears as he looks ahead rather than back at me all the time. "Door?"  I ask him as we're nearing the outside door.
He pulls me slightly to the left and halts. "Door?"  I ask him again, reaching out my hand. He nudges my hand to the doorknob, shoving his front paws against it for good measure. I chuckle and give him a treat for his trouble.
We exit the office, the stone hallway echoing more and more the closer we get to the staircase down. Ruff neatly puts me next to the handrail as we walk down the steps and out the door, into the brisk outside air.
To my right, I hear the rattle of the green traffic light as I walk down the front steps onto the pavement. Putting it at my back, we head on back to the bus stop, which is a multi-platform affair with busses coming in and going out at various platforms along a stretch of road.
Walking along the pavement, the sounds of restaurants opening for the evening and the smells of food being prepared greet my senses. To my right, busses arrive and depart from the nearby bus station, temporarily blotting out the subtle noises I need to orient myself. I trust Ruff's senses as we continue on and finally halt and turn right.
I wait for the latest bus to stop polluting my remaining senses before directing Ruff to cross the road as no other cars are incoming. Walking along my usual route, I feel for, and finally locate, the bumped tactile pavement that indicates a safe pedestrian crossing.
Crossing once again, I trust Ruff again as I have no fool-proof way to check what bus platform I am on apart from asking a bystander or checking the incoming busses for a few minutes. Ruff turns us to the right onto a platform I quicklyfind isn't the right one, though.
"Hey ...turn back,"  I tell him sternly. The final platform on this particular bus stop has a huge amount of tactile pavement for no reason I've ever been able to determine, but it's a good indicator we need to turn back and take the penultimate platform instead.
When I first started working here, finding the right platform could take me fifteen minutes. It's gradually gotten better, but it can still be much more of a chore than it should be and today is actually rather mild in how much of a pain it can be.
I walk Ruff back to the pedestrian crossing and have him properly turn into the right platform, giving him a treat to indicate this is the correct spot. This happens at times, and when I have the time and energy I contribute to his training. A guide dog always learns new things, and at times, so does it's owner.

We settle in to wait as I pull out my phone and listen to the robotic text to speech voice as I flick towards my public transport app. The big sign that shows the bus times is inaccessible, so I have to use an app that tries it's best to keep an up-to-date list of what bus comes when with the data the various public transport companies here expose. Sadly, that data can be quite unreliable, requiring me to ask bus drivers what their route is every time a bus comes in. That is about as tedious as it sounds.

A bus stops in front of me, the doors hissing open as I somewhat clumsily stick my head in the door. " Excuse me, where are you going?"
"To the station"  comes the reply.
'You don't say! This is one of the two platforms for busses that go in the station's direction. Thanks, colonel Cryptic" my inner monologue quips as I shrug slightly.
"Yeah ...I meant your final stop. What line is this?" I specify, keeping a level tone and, hopefully, a straight face.
"Oh, line 3"  he responds, telling me all I need to know. "Alright, I don't need that one, I need line number 7" I clarify, stepping backward and almost running into a person I didn't hear come up behind me.
'Sorry"  I quickly apologize, pretty sure the person is already out of earshot but trying just in case. I get no response.
"Should be here in five minutes"  the driver  clarifies before closing his doors, ready to continue on his route. "Good to know, thanks!"  I respond right before the definitive thump of the rubber-lined doors closing.
The bus trundles off and I give Ruff a few pets, before pulling out my phone again and resuming my rather spicy chat. Hey ...I was interrupted after lunch and I needed to stay warm somehow, no?
As my bus pulls up, I put Ruff to work finding the closest open door. As he steps inside, his harness telling me how steep the incline of the bus is, I get in after him and find myself a seat.
I once again get lost in a Spotify playlist as I while away the minutes, turning it off a few minutes before getting to my stop, as I don't have a simple trick to not miss my stop on the way back home. Listening to the automated announcements that this driver thankfully didn't turn off, I know when to press the button marked with the braille letter S, dots 2 3 and 4, signaling him to stop at the next stop.
The bus gradually comes to a stop, Ruff sliding across the floor slightly as he loses his grip. I direct him next to me and through the doors hissing open as we clamber down onto the pavement.
Walking around the bus stop, the noises of the nearby road bouncing off the glass enclosure of the bus stop guiding me, I walk over to a green patch so Ruff can do his business.
I listen carefully to the cars going by, looking for the lulls in traffic I'd have to use one of these to cross the street when Ruff's done. There's no traffic light to guide traffic here, so being ocularly challenged can be a bit of a hindrance at this particular crossing.
Ruff comes back around to my left indicating he's done and we make our way to the edge of the pavement, listening to the cars going by until for a few seconds there are no more cars coming. This is as good a chance as any.
"Let's go!" I urge as I direct Ruff to cross the road, making our way over to the cycling road and onto the pavement as a car comes down the road behind us, holding up a small white cane that I pull from my back pocket all the while.
This cane fits in my pocket and is supposed to make oncoming traffic stop, but honestly that happens about one out of ten times and it's more tradition than actually useful to do so at this point. The way people obey traffic laws here at times honestly makes me wonder how I haven't died yet at times.
Letting out a playful whoop after reaching the other side of the road, I tell Ruff to turn right. Keeping Ruff enthusiastic is a good way to keep him focused and making a game of things like crossing the road is just one of the ways to do that, so at times I indulge him.
Making our way down the pavement I listen carefully for the ground on my left changing structure, from grass to asphalt indicating the bridge across the little creek separating this part of the neighborhood from the rest of it. I need to cross that bridge to get home, and listening for it is the most accurate way to find it consistently and not walk right by it.
I reflect on how I know so much more about my neighborhood due to going out more and using various apps telling me about my surroundings as I cross the bridge and walk down the road making another left to turn into my street.
'To think that five or so years back I rarely left my home ...things sure have changed'

Humming a tune, I start thinking about dinner as I walk around the final bend in the road, walking up to my back gate and through the garden, up to my back door.
Opening it, I remove Ruff's harness and laugh as he instantly trudges over to his pillow and settles down.
"Lazy carpet, aren't you?" I joke as I close the back door behind me, a decisive click closing out the outside world as I put Ruff's leash and harness at their customary spots. "Let's make us both some dinner, eh?"

Dinner ...sandwiches again? Are the Dutch that big on sandwiches that they even suffice for dinner?
Spoiler ...Nah, probably not, although it's happened once or twice ;) Some continuity is being set up though
Where is it all going? I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out ;)


  1. Nice chapter. Thanks for the update

    1. Thank you in turn for sticking with me, Anonymous :)

  2. So you don’t use a cane at all when you’re with your dog? Also why didn’t you leave the house five years ago? I’m still loving all the details but some more background would also be nice if you’re willing to share.

    1. :) I will go into this in the future, this was a rather blatant attempt at foreshadowing. To summarize though, it has to do with energy management, mental thresholds that needed crossing due to the way I was raised and the way I was taught my routes at the time. A lot of mistakes were made there, with the best of intentions but still mistakes that had long-lasting ramifications.

  3. Enjoying learning about the partnership between you and Ruff. Does it make it fun for you that you each have to keep each other on your toes?

    It's sobering to read that it would originally have taken you 15 minutes to find the platform, wow. And very curious to hear more about this transition "5 or so years ago"...

    1. It ...can be a struggle. That platform is incredibly noisy, there is no fool-proof way to check what platform you are on as a blind person which meant that initially, I would keep ending up on the wrong one.
      I'd have to ask someone, who at times didn't even know the individual platforms had letters, doesn't know where my particular bus will depart from because it isn't on the display yet ... just a day on the job, really.
      Ruff eventually picked up that we always seem to end up in the same place and now he walks to the right one, or one past, which I can recognize by that tactile pavement strip that none of the others have for some odd reason.
      As for the transition, see above :-) It's coming. I am deliberately not giving too much background yet because the way this story flows doesn't lend itself to it very well, but have no fear, it will come :-)