The twilight zone

December 23, 2022 Trevor Plumbly

I may have mentioned it before, but I am getting on a bit, and the use-by date is creeping into consideration. I've suspected for some time that I will soon join the 'total blindies’, and once that happens there's a risk of feeling isolated. I'm not wired to be a Champagne Charlie, but ending up as a human cobweb doesn't appeal much either.


It occurs to me that I should find some middle ground to ease myself through the transition phases. I'm a paid-up member of the blind community and surely too well travelled in the twilight zone to be plonked into the social wilderness the instant someone says, “Sorry, he's got a vision problem.” I reckon it’s sad we don't have a recognition system for some of our efforts. Lots of bods get medals, hyphenated job descriptions and stuff like that, but it seems to me that our blindy footsoldiers tend to get overlooked. Not that I'm pushing for a 'blindhood' – I'm not really in favour of such things… unless something gets offered, in which case I will accept with appropriate modesty.



For services to…

I rather like ‘for services to…’; it’s got a nice old-fashioned ring to it. But it does indicate that I need to come up with something pretty nifty to get my foot in the door. I've pretty well solved the indoor mobility bit, but the fiddly stuff's going to need a bit more R&D before my work merits discussion in professional circles. My first discovery was the unbreakable mug – one of those old German pottery souvenir beer steins. It takes about a third of a litre of tea, which solves the refill drama; it’s got an easy-grip handle and, best of all, it’s really tough to knock over! Cheap and still pretty easy to come by through eBay, op shops and second-hand stores.


I've never really liked Venetian blinds; they seem to have been created for people who want a visual two-bob each way. My research shows they are little or no use to trainee blindies. To us, light isn't really an issue, but some still fiddle with them; habit, I suppose. Frustratingly, they've got three control strings and the one you want is usually tangled up beyond salvation.


Difficult vowel movements

It’s the fiddly bits I'm finding hardest to cope with – the configuration of the QWERTY keyboard is becoming a mystery. I'm sure the old boy that cooked the thing up did his best; I'm trying, but it’s not going awfully well. I'm currently perfecting a left-hand index-finger technique I've found cuts the error rate by around 40%. But the main source of frustration is the siting of the vowels, especially U, I and O, which he seems to have jammed into the right-hand corner as if he'd run out of space. To make matters worse, he stuck the three together, which, I've discovered, is a typo minefield. The difference between 'fill' and 'full' isn't that big a deal on paper, but I'm finding it pays to double check words like ‘shot' and 'shut'.


Apple crumble

The creative genius of Silicon Valley folk has always been a mixed blessing for me. These days, they can create a virtual cheese and pickle sandwich with a couple of keystrokes, yet find it impossible to invent an easily accessed charging port. It’s almost impossible to feel a charging port – you can get little button things to help, but on the smaller devices there's not much space to fix them. One solution is to outline the port with nail polish, which, at the risk of discriminating, could present a problem of supply for those wishing to preserve a male image. But, while my experience proves it’s the best answer, spare a thought for the poor bloke sidling up to the cosmetics counter and whispering, “The Shocking Pink didn't really work for me; maybe I should try the Dayglo Yellow?”


Instead of improving the charging situation, Silicon Valley seems to be consumed with tweaking the tried and true. For example, after dropping my old iPad for the third and fatal time, I've become the somewhat apprehensive owner of an iPad Pro and being punished accordingly. The main problem is getting the thing to actually start up. There's fingerprint access, but for some reason it didn't like where I put my finger, so I'm left with facial recognition, which scares me a bit. I mean, I can't see it, but it can see me; ergo, it knows more about me than I do it, yet I own the damn thing! As with most things digital, I'm surrounded by folk eager to demonstrate the benefits of the 'improvements', but I'm finding it tough to convert their well-meant enthusiasm into practical application.


Regardless of the pristine state of the house’s internal walls after the recent paint job, I still need to trail to find the light switches. They're of little practical use, but finding them and flicking them on or off lends a sort of normality that I find oddly reassuring. I have heard of folk who outline the switch bases with black felt tips and even put crosses on the switches themselves, but my feeling is that if I need that much help to find the thing, it’s not going to be of much use anyway.


There are so many angles to this transition thing and the analytical stuff gets tiring. I'm beginning to think that the dream of a blindhood would be best shelved, along with my research papers. I'm even wondering if 'transition' should be restricted to political rhetoric, since trying to blend it into our vocabulary, won't, to coin a phrase, make a blind bit of difference.


Born in the UK, our ‘white-caner’ columnist, retired Dunedin antiques dealer Trevor Plumbly, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa more than 20 years ago and now lives in Auckland.