Wednesday, February 28

An amusing but possible career for the blind

Greetings. I received the following from a coworker and thought it appropriate to put here. This is a career that I've thought of and believe could work, especially with today's technology in tow. Picture this: you're sitting at the bar, drinking your favorite brew, taking notes on your note taker, while casually listening to the conversation of the person down the bar from you, and maybe even recording it with the digital recorder in your note taker, so as to have a backup and physical evidence. Meanwhile, you're secure in the knowledge that you won't be spotted as eavesdropping because--you're blind. Read on and consider the possibilities. Enjoy.

The Herald (UK)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I spy an MI5 career as the blind invisible man


Am I invisible? Well, some days it appears that I am. There is a strange
phenomenon going on which either has to be exploited or investigated.
Now I'm not a scientist, but there is an extraordinary correlation
between how poor someone's sight is and how much they can be seen by the
general public. It's weird. It's like the poorer your sight becomes, the
harder it is for anyone to see you. Very slowly you fade away to
nothing. There is, perhaps, at best, just a faint outline of a person
moving through the crowd. The guide dog can be seen clearly, but the
person is invisible.

Once, I was sitting in the executive departure lounge at Glasgow Airport
(now, I'm not saying that to show off but I was put in the elite waiting
room by one of the airport staff who thought it would be helpful -
actually, I think she was just getting me out of the way) and for some
time I was alone, till one other traveller appeared.

The lounge was quiet, with only the faint crunching sound of a blind man
and his dog gorging themselves on free biscuits. (I wonder who supplied
them?) The other passenger then made a call on his mobile. "Hi, I'm at
Glasgow Airport. Yes, I'm completely alone."

I screamed, "No! no! I'm here. Ya-hoo! Yahoo!", while bouncing up and
down on my seat.

He continued. "Yes, yes, I can speak freely," he said in a booming

"No! No! You can't speak freely, I'm here - look, see," I said while
figuratively slapping him repeatedly around the face.

He then proceeded to go into great detail about what football players he
would be buying and selling for his club. "I'm thinking of buying Jo
Bloggs for around 200 thousand - um, yes, as long as he gives up the
drugs and alcohol. Obviously, it would be good if his foot would grow
back, then he'll be the player for us. Selling - well, who the hell
would buy one of ours?" It was a Scottish Premier League chairman.

He plumped himself down next to me and confessed to his life 
My instinct was to run around the room naked, falling over chairs and
tap dancing on the tables while whistling Dixie. Obviously, I didn't do
any of these. I sat quietly taking mental notes. Well, it is my job. He
was so near I could have reached out and touched him with my left hand.
What was he thinking? He was sitting only feet from a journalist. But
because I was blind he just couldn't see me. Some people just have to be
protected from themselves. No, I'm not going to embarrass him by giving
his name.

So, here's my idea. Stick with me on this one, it's good. How about the
blind spy? According to a charity for the blind, four out of five blind
people of working age are unemployed. A shocking statistic, I know, but
perhaps this could be a good way to get many of them back to work by
using our so-called natural skills. Being invisible and, of course, our
extraordinary hearing. Although I'm not so sure about my hearing.
Sometimes I become very deaf, particularly at home, for some strange
reason. "Ian, you couldn't do the dishes?" Answer: "Sorry, what was
that?" Another yell comes from the kitchen. "Ian, the bin needs
emptying." Answer: "Sorry, I didn't catch that."

We've got all the technology now. Talking mobile phones with camera,
infra-red object detector, digital recorder, colour detectors and
blind-friendly global positioning systems. We've got so much kit that
when we plug it in at night to do the charging the street lights dim.

A couple of years ago MI5 was going through a recruitment campaign
looking for more agents. It should have started looking around the blind
colleges and training centres - not Oxford and Cambridge. Apart from
being invisible, for some reason, those of the public who have the
special powers that can see us tend to be the mad, bad, criminally
insane and deranged. These types always feel the need to off-load all
their darkest secrets, as if somehow a blind person knowing them just
doesn't count.

Many years ago, I was approached by a man in a bar. He plumped himself
down uninvited and started to confess to me about his life of crime.
Armed robbery, receiving stolen goods, almost everything apart from
murder. If only I'd had a modern phone with a camera, I could have
secretly taken his photo, recorded his confession with my miniature
digital recorder and scanned the colour of his clothes using my colour
detector. Then I could have called the police, giving my GPS
co-ordinates, and maybe scooped myself a large reward. The alternative
is to try to escape. It's not easy trying to squeeze yourself and a
labrador out of the window in a disabled toilet, particularly when you
don't know where you're landing.

Even when a blind person can be seen, normal rules of security don't
apply. Before the recent tightening of security at airports, being blind
didn't appear to constitute any threat. I could walk through customs
with 10 kilos of crack cocaine under one arm, a box marked "bomb" under
the other one, and dragging a case with "swag" printed across it. But as
long as I had a white stick or a guide dog, I had some kind of blind
diplomatic immunity. If only David Blunkett were still Home Secretary he
could have implemented my army of blind spies.

Ian Hamilton reports on disability issues for BBC Scotland.

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