Sunday, March 12

Week 5 in Immersion

Greetings. Well, we've come to the end of another weekend, which means another immersion summary of highlights from last week. Starting tomorrow, will be week 6 for me, which means it is my last week for this phase of my training. For those wondering, more training has been talked about but as of yet, no decisions have been made. I'm guessing that I'll talk with some people about that this coming week. Anyway, on with the update.

Monday. I started my wooden Braille cells in shop class, which meant using the eletric tools that I had gotten familiar with the previous Friday. These included, among others, the table saw, the ban saw, the mider (not the correct spelling) saw, drill press, and another one or two. Out of all of them, the table saw was the one that made me the most anxious, and it still does, to some degree. However, an instructor was right there with me the entire time I was getting familiar with it and went over plenty of safety procedures with me. We even did several walk throughs in the method I would use to cut the wood. Even after all of this preparation and watchfulness of the teacher though, she still let me operate the saw and handle the wood all on my own. Sure, she was there to watch, and she told me that she would tap me on the shoulder if anything went wrong (to which I was to immediately stop and step back), but she never put her hands on my hands or on the wood. This did, and still does, impress me. Fortunately for my anxiety, I didn't have to run the table saw on the second cell I made since the wood was already cut. For the record, they say that they will help us make the first one, but then they want us to make the second on our own. The student isn't totally on their own though, since there always has to be an instructor in the room with the electric tools, to make sure everything goes right and to answer any questions. Other than that though, you're on your own and doing it independently.

Anyway, I finished my two Braille cells in 3 days. Here's a good segway into Wednesday. When I finished my second cell, I went into the main room to tell the teachers. There were several new consumers in there, listening to an introduction from the two teachers there that day. When I went in to tell one of the guys that I was done, he told me to come over to the table and asked me if I'd mind showing my Braille cell to the students sitting there. Of course, I didn't mind at all. As I passed it around, the teacher talked about me with the students, saying things like: "Here's a guy who thought he wasn't very mechanically inclined, and after a couple of weeks of instruction, went out and bought his own toolbox and some tools." As I stood there, answering some independent living questions from the teacher, all in front of the new consumers, I felt like I had come full circle. Instead of sitting at the table as a consumer, I was standing at one end, telling them that, "It can be done. You can be an independent adult. Look at me--I am." The teacher echoed my sentaments. In the words of my good friend, OGV, that was a "cool feeling."

Another cool feeling happened on Wednesday. I had gone outside to make a long distance call on my cell phone. As I walked down the sidewalk a ways, I heard someone with a guide dog pass by. I knew they had a dog since I overheard them saying something to it. Since there are, to my possibly limited knowledge, only 2 or 3 people that work at the main part of the Center who have dogs, I struck up a conversation. To my utter surprise and her amazement, it was one of my former rehab caseworkers. The next few statements went pretty much like this:

Former caseworker: "What are you doing here?"
Me: "I work here."
Former caseworker: "You do? When did you start?"

The cool feeling I referenced above was in the pride of telling her, "I work here." Anyway, we talked for a few minutes, and as it turned out, she was at the Center for some of the periodic training that caseworkers often do in the state agency. I saw her again briefly Thursday morning when entering the building. That was neat though, to see a caseworker that meant a lot to me, and one that I knew would work on my behalf.

Friday. On Friday, I made some potato salad in my daily living class. This was significant since, I'm pretty sure the two instructors met before hand and agreed to assist me as little as possible. They kind of had to since about 10 new consumers had arrived at the Center earlier in the week, though only two of them were in my class. However, in the words of one of the instructors, more or less, "I wanted to pull back and let you do as much as of it as you could without my help. And, you did. Do you realize that you did almost the entire exercise on your own? Independently?" She told me this last part toward the end of the time when I was getting ready to do the dishes. I then stopped and thought about what she had said, and realized she was right. I had done nearly the whole thing on my own. The times I asked questions were to locate a few things, or estimates on how long it would take to do something. Other than that, I had done it on my own. I remember smiling and thinking, "Well, if I don't have another daily living class in immersion, that's fine. I've arrived at the place I had been at before, with making things in the kitchen and feeling confident about it." I haven't yet told this to my teachers, since I'm afraid that if I do, then I won't have anymore cooking time. After all, I have really liked the cooking times. But, all good things must come to an end I suppose.

One other item before I close this entry. I had some adventures in my mobility class in week 5. Most days, I was sent to some specified places, most of which were in my neighborhood. One day, I was sent on a discovery trip, and asked to go down the line of stores in a strip mall area, see what they were, and make note of them. That was fun. I think I might have spent too much time at the mattress store, but that's the store's fault for making the ones I tried out, so comfortable. I'm thinking of getting a slightly bigger bed at some point, so I was pleased that this store was on the strip. There were other stores I found as well, some that were relevant to me and some that weren't.

Last Thursday though, I was sent to what ended up being one of the largest grocery stores in the state, an H.E.B., to do some shopping and get back to the Center. My instructor has written out the instructions in Braille for me, on several index cards. I made it to the store fine and did the short shopping. The way back was interesting though, mainly because the bus I was to catch, didn't go to where my instructor thought it went. I chatted with the driver for a few minutes, and then started to back toward the door, but he assured me that everything would be fine. To myself, I thought, "No it won't. I'm going to a place that I know nothing about, to streets I know nothing about, and you're saying it will be fine?" To clarify, since there may be someone reading this who might be saying, "But isn't that what you're being trained to do: handle unfamiliar places?" To which I would say, yes. However, and I suppose this is a work in progress for me, but I get real nervous about routes and streets that I am forced into and know nothing about. I'm fine about going to specific places though, like an airport, and problem solving to do what I need to do.

Anyway, my instructor ended up coming up behind me (since it was around 5:00 and I was real late getting back, and she didn't want me to miss my home bus), and taking me back to the Center by car.

The notable thing though was while I was sitting at the bus stop. There were several other men there, who might not have all been waiting on the bus. One of them came over to me at one point and said, "Can I ask you something? Why are you wearing those shades? Are you conducting an experiment?" I thought I'd have a little fun with him, so I said, "Well, I'm seeing what it might be like to be blind." He said, "Oh, that's what I thought. It must be a drag." I said, "Not so much. You might be surprised." Then, our conversation took the stereotypical turn into the following:

He said, "I guess your hearing is a lot better, ey?"
I said, "No. That's one of the big rip off myths that's floating around." (I had to speak "hip" with him since he sounded like one of these 30-something geeks; oops, just described myself, :)
He said, "Well, I don't know if it's a rip off. But, your hearing does improve, you know, like Stevie Wonder?"
I said, with a slight sigh, "You know, not all blind people are musicians like Stevie."
He said, "Really?"
I said, "Sure. There are blind: computer programmers, electricians, mechanics, teachers, lawyers, and the list goes on."

Our talk ended there, for all the education he might have gotten out of it. One funny thing though is that he thinks I'm just wearing this blindfold to "see what its like." What will he say, if and when I happen to come across him again, when I'm not wearing the blindfold but am still using a cane?

Well, that's about all for now. I'll write more next weekend on week 6, and then an over all summary of my immersion experience. Several impressions and thoughts have come up in past weeks that I've wanted to include, but will save for the over all summary, since they fit better there. Until then, have a good week.


  1. Wayne,

    That sure sounded like one of those oh, so precious, cool feeling moments. I'm glad you got to have that.

    Also, thanks for sharing the immersion experience.

    My interview this morning at the college went very well. I'm one of five finalists for the job. There was nothing they asked me that I didn't know. I was very confident and professional.

    Then, this afternoon, I received a phone call from the DBS office, where I've applied for the Voc Rehab Counselor's job, to set up an interview date and time. Wow, when it rains, it pours. I'll interview on Wed. March 15 at 10:30. So, in three days, I'll have two fresh interviews under my belt. Adding to this, I believe I've got a good shot at landing both jobs.

    So, we'll see where this goes.

    I'm leaving this post instead of sending you an e-mail as I'm on my mom's computer in Copperas Cove.

    More later when there's more to tell.


  2. For those interested, you can Click here to read Ron Graham's (OGV's) blog on Live Journal. I think he defines "cool feeling" in a post at least 2 months ago, but you might have to do some searching.