20101109

Deccez #39- 48 Hours Without Sight

Why: This item found its way onto the List due to curiosity. More than a year ago I decided I would like to do the 40 hour famine without sight, unfortunately I never got around to it. 
This desire formed from wondering what it would be like to be blind. Just stop and think about it, the most basic of daily needs would be so difficult to achieve. So when I formed the list I considered this and decided it definitely deserved a spot on the list.

Problems: As one can most likely assume the problems with being completely and utterly blind for 48 hours are endless. Everything from daily needs like eating and showering to simply spending time out with friends becomes an immense challenge. As such before I tell you all what happened I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to everyone who assisted with making this weekend so much more eventful than it otherwise would've been;
-thanks you to the group who guided me around Charlestown square during the Saturday afternoon, thanks to Andrew Coombe for all the interest and support in the List, big thank you to James Richmond for organising the blind date Saturday morning, also big thank you to the lovely Kirrily and her friend Laura who agreed to go on a date with a temporarily blind stranger, huge thanks to Ben Fraser for babysitting me all Sunday. 
The biggest thank you has to go to my family, my sister and more importantly my mother, for putting up with me and for her continual support of my List.

What Happened: Sometime during mid-October I had decided it was time to get serious about my List, I was aware I'd been crossing things off but they all seemed to be simple things, I needed to break that. As a result of this, shortly after my 17th birthday, I vowed to complete number 39) 48 hours without sight, before the end of the month.
Immediately plans were under way. Firstly I had to decide how I was going to stop myself from seeing; a blindfold could have easily fallen off and ruined everything and simply closing my eyes was just asking for trouble. Eventually I decided on purchasing the cheapest pair of swimming goggles I could find ($16 was the cheapest that would fit my head, which is apparently larger than normal) and covering them in layers of black electrical tape.
Now that was sorted I had to find some trusted, ah let's call them “volunteers”, to not only guide me around for the weekend but also assist in making it eventful. (I had long ago decided that the item would not be crossed off if all I did was sit at home)

This was when a close friend, James, had what I can only describe as a stroke of pure genius and, flying with the whole blind theme, organise a blind date for me. I was stoked at the idea, meeting someone new and getting to know them over lunch is normally a rush enough but to do so entirely blind I could only imagine would be amazing (spoiler alert! It was amazing)

Unfortunately a few short days before the scheduled weekend my blind date cancelled due to work commitments. As such nothing had been planned for the weekend  so the crossing off of number 39 had to be postponed.
Only two weeks later I got the call from my friend saying that my date was fine for that weekend and good to go. This left me with around 4 days to organise everything all over again. This time I scheduled something for the Sunday as well; on Sunday I would be going to my friend Ben Fraser's house to play Halo 2's first level in easy. The plan was I would hold the controls whilst he looked at the screen and spoke directions to me. More on that later.
Soon the night arrived, Friday night, the 29th of October. At precisely 7pm (by Andrew's watch, who had showed up for the ceremonial putting on of the goggles) the goggles were on.


“Andrew and I, 5 minutes into blindness”

The first night was the most difficult, suddenly just getting around the house was a task of epic proportions. Luckily for me I had found a walking stick across the road from my Dad's a week earlier which for the remainder of the blind weekend would be employed as a cane.
After many a bruise from bumping into a table, or wall, or fridge, sometimes even another person; I felt I was finally getting the hang of it. So I went to bed. Now before anyone asks yes the goggles came off when I was sleeping but they stayed right next to me at all times. I did not catch a glimpse of the real world at all so all is good my friends.
Waking up and putting the goggles on the next morning was promising. The Saturday was packed full of amazing plans, and only an hour or so after waking my phone rang and another plan was added. A group of close friends were travelling to the newly improved shopping complex at Charlestown and I had been invited. Of course, the had all forgotten that I was blind for the weekend but nonetheless agreed to take care of me (after a short lecture from my mother; as mother's do). 
In almost no time at all I was ready for my blind date. Dressed to impress (as I can only imagine I was) in jeans and my black 100things.com.au shirt my mother kindly drove myself and my guide for the day; James, to the local shopping centre where I would be taking an obviously adventurous young lady I knew nothing about out to lunch.
Upon arriving at Greenhills (the shopping centre) James guided me to the cafe (conveniently placed at the opposite end of the centre) whilst I used my cane to check he wasn't leading me towards any walls. One can never be too sure.
However James did impress me, safely guiding me to the cafe where we waited patiently for our dates to arrive. Whilst waiting we ran into some school friends and snapped a few quick shots.


 “Kath, myself and Paige. 15 hours blind”

A quick tap on my arm was the notification from James that our dates had arrived. Soon I was introduced to Kirrily, the girl who up until that moment I hadn't even known her name referring to her instead as 'mystery girl' during the week leading up.
Within a heartbeat the date was under way and honestly I cannot say I had felt more relaxed all weekend. Kirrily, if you're reading this I thank you so much. You were so kind and funny about the whole blind date scenario and it was truly a pleasure to get to know you.
It was a sad yet achieved feeling that took place towards the end of the date. Knowing it was over was a bit upsetting as we were having so much fun but knowing that it went so well (at least in my opinion) was an amazing rush.
Date number 2? I'll be honest I wouldn't mind one, but we shall see.



“Kirrily, myself and Laura outside Cino's cafe”

Working on the theory that keeping me moving and going would prevent the skin around my eyes from hurting due to the pressure from the goggles we travelled directly from the date (leaving Kirrily and Laura with a few quick hugs) to Charlestown.
I will refrain from writing too much on Charlestown as you are probably growing bored of reading but what I will say is this. Charlestown was packed. I didn't need sight to confirm this, the sound alone was plenty.
I could only guess that I was on the receiving end of some very peculiar looks but luckily I had come prepared. With some assistance from my friends a sign that simply read “48 hours blind for charity” was pinned to my shirt. Problem solved.


 “The Charlestown guide group”

Before I move onto Sunday I would like to mention the fantastic customer service of the staff at the Apple store. Being avoided all weekend by anyone who didn't already know me was a rather bitter feeling but I had grown accustomed to it. However one man in particular made me so happy to be doing what I was doing.
He was working at the apple store and without announcement wandered over to me and started telling me about the new I pad (specifically its features for the visually impaired) as if nothing was the matter. After sharing a few jokes I realised I had already met him once long before at the local laser tag joint.
Soon after he questioned about my List and why I was wearing taped up goggles etc. before telling me what I was doing was “truly admirable”. Hearing people say things like that makes this List so much sweeter and amazing, I think the feeling of crossing an item off can only be surpassed by the feeling of knowing you've helped inspire someone.


“Myself and apple store man, aka Ryan”

As I am growing tired (writing this article late at night) I will summarise the high points of Sunday. Playing a video game entirely blind with a close friend guiding you by stating things such as; “look left slightly, move right slowly, now shoot” is honestly one of the most bond-making things I've ever done. For any CEO's reading this, I strongly suggest instead of taking your employees on expensive “teamwork building” holidays just blindfold half of them and let the other half direct them in a game of Halo.
The fact that we finished the entire first level (with only four deaths) remains today as one of the proudest moments of my life as a teenager :) (smiley face was necessary)
The need to get outside was pressing, after being inside all weekend I needed the warmth of the sun on my skin so Ben suggested we go bike riding. How does someone go about riding blind you ask? Well it more or less consisted of me clutching the handlebars feeling like I was leaning at a 45 degree angle to the ground and travelling faster than I thought possible for a bike whilst Ben calmly walked next to me holding my shoulder and pushing the bike along. If you ever crave an adrenaline rush but without any danger whatsoever just ride a bike blindfolded whilst a friend walks next to you.


 “Ben, myself and the cursed bike”

Finally, the end of the challenge (the end of this article I can imagine some of you are thinking). At 7pm Sunday 31st the goggles came off and the eyes opened. Upon seeing for the first time in 48 hours I got a headache and had to sit down, I then ran into tables because my depth perception was out and my vision was blurry. As such more bruises decorated my body.
NOTE: Notice how I vowed to have crossed this item off before the end of the month? I am proud to point out that I did so on the last day of October thereby living up to my vow.

What I Learnt: To be blind for one's whole life I still cannot comprehend. However I feel I am that much closer to understanding how difficult their everyday life is. I have so much respect for those people who live everyday of their lives in the dark confines of blindness and my heart goes out to all of them. I believe that my main goal of this item (to gain a better sense of empathy for the blind) has truly been achieved and once again I sincerely thank everyone who made it possible.

Oh and I also learnt that when you're temporarily blind you experience stages of feeling. Firstly you become irrationally paranoid think that everyone is plotting against you. Then you become ridiculously relaxed (I have never been more relaxed in my life). This is then followed by an intense sense of exhaustion. Finally you begin to become used to being blind and manage to avoid the tables and other various pieces of furniture. Unfortunately this is soon replaced with an unbearable sense of boredom once you exhaust all activities of awesomeness.
 (The last two hours of waiting for 7pm to come around consisted of endless whining on my behalf  and an annoying need to repeatedly ask what time it was) Then again the need to ask what time it was was present throughout the entire weekend. Seriously the most annoying part of being blind is never knowing the time of day.


Number 39) 48 hours blind, officially complete”


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