The week before the 2011 NMO Patient Day, I expressed my fear and anticipation of traveling alone for the first time since my vision loss. Obviously since I’m writing this now, I survived. As a matter of fact, traveling solo really wasn’t as terrifying as I’d expected. So long as I got to an airport employee at curbside, the rest was a breeze. I was escorted through ticketing and security all the way to the gate. Once it was time to pre-board, an airline employee guided me down the jet bridge, onto the plane, and into my seat. When we landed, a flight attendant guided me off the plane and handed me off to a waiting airport employee who proceeded to help me find my friends. All in all the traveling was a non-issue.
What was interesting was how I got along in my own hotel room. When Jenna had called the Hilton hotel to reserve a room for herself and her husband, she also reserved a room for me and requested it be an adjoining room so in the case I fall (and can’t get up) or somehow find myself locked in the closet, I could holler and have Jenna break down the connecting door to come save me out of whatever misery I’d gotten myself into. Even with the security of the adjoining door, I still managed to get myself into some minor physical and mental scrapes. Here they are (along with additional outside-the-hotel adventures) for your reading amusement.
How to Survive L.A. As a Blind Person
- DO ask your friend to check the grass before plopping down. On the day I arrived, I hung out with a girlfriend from school who had recently moved to L.A. After lunch, she took me for a stroll on the Venice Beach promenade. The salty air, rolling waves, and gleaming sunset were all pleasant enough, so we decided to sit on a patch of grass and watch the sun dipping into the horizon. She checked the grass to make sure it wasn’t wet, and I sat down after she gave me the okay. I decided to make myself at home and leaned back. It was right then that my fingers got embedded into something mushy. Dog poop! So lesson #1 is ask your friend to scope more carefully not just for wet grass but (and I think more importantly) for dog crap. Which leads me to my next lesson…
- DON’T forget your antibacterial hand gel in your luggage back at the hotel. As a Neuromyelitis Optica/NMO patient, we are on a lot of immunosuppressants. This means crappy immune systems which means the world out there is one big germ as far as we’re concerned. Carry that antibacterial stuff everywhere you go and pour it on everything (with the exception of food).
- DO keep an open mind and DON’T get mad at idiots. After my dog-crap-in-hand adventure, my friend and I decided to stop at a coffee shop on the way to her car. Venice Beach, as I’d remembered it from my Cali days in high school, was a seedy area full of bohemians: fortune tellers, street artists, musicians, vendors, and who can forget the notorious muscleheads pumping iron and playing street ball. And almost two decades later, Venice Beach is much of the same bohemian seediness it was before. I was holding my friend’s elbow so she could guide me, and a fellow on a street corner looked us up and down, saying, “All right, I like it. Keepin’ it real. You can just use dildos.” It was then that my friend and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Apparently my grip on her elbow made us appear lesbian. Now, being fairly socially liberal, I did not have a problem with the idiot’s opinion on our sexual orientation. What I did have a problem with is the fact that he had to comment on it and in such a vulgar way. But whatever. Just ignore idiocy and move on. No need to raise the stress level with NMO.
- DO check the curtains before undressing. Now if you had properly working eyes, this wouldn’t be a problem. At a glance, you’d know your curtains are wide open to the dark lurking night. But me? I totally forgot to check the curtains before stripping down to my bare buttocks for a shower. How embarrassing. The good thing was my room was on the fourteenth floor, pretty high up for any passersby to peep. The bad thing is my room faced the LAX airport.
- DON’T put anything on your body before verifying its label. After I drew the curtains and showered, I grabbed a mini bottle from the bathroom sink and rubbed my body down with lotion. But no matter how much I rubbed, the lotion only turned into a sticky mess. Finally I facetimed my husband on my iPhone, and he told me the bottle in my hand was actually body wash. Doh! I jumped in the tub for a second shower.
- DO double-check your fly before leaving your hotel room. I spent the entire time at the patient advocacy dinner with my zipper undone. Double-doh!