Blind Travel: In Search of Quiche – One Girl’s Morning Out
Blog Post by Jessica Hodges
What’s for Breakfast. This is the quintessential question of the age. What am I going to put in my mouth that will both taste good, and keep me full of energy throughout my day. I decide this morning that the answer is a mini quiche. A quiche is a pastry full of egg, cheese, and other assorted breakfast ingredients. I like mine with bacon, cheddar, mushrooms, onions, and asparagus. Sadly, I have no quiche in my house, and I don’t have time to make one. I did get up super early, though, and I know of a good coffee shop on my way to college. Trouble is, I’ve only been their once, and I was with a friend who was driving. Moreover, my travel skills leave much to be desired. I am terrible at mental mapping, composing a map in your head of whatever spaces you walk through. My understanding of space is incredibly limited, which makes getting myself unlost complicated since I don’t always understand where I am and what I’ve done wrong. Finally, I have a condition called auditory processing disorder, or APD, meaning that my brain doesn’t accurately interpret the signals my ears send. This comes into play in the sense that when I listen to traffic, parallel, the street to my side, and perpendicular, the street in front of me, both sound angled. So, I can’t line up the way most people do, by making sure that the perpendicular sounds like it’s going straight by me, and the parallel sounds like it’s going straight past my side. This leads to some interesting diagonal crossings. Also, I miss the traffic surges, when traffic flow switches from one direction, to the other, particularly on busier streets. This is what tells most people when to cross an intersection, and while I can do it, it can take a little longer. All of this usually results in me getting extremely lost, and taking forever to get anywhere. Still, I really want quiche, so I search for my one missing snow boot, wrap myself in a scarf I pulled from the half-done dryer, pack my scuffed leather messenger bag, and head out.
As I’m in the elevator, I load up BlindSquare. Blindsquare is a little expensive, but it’s well worth it’s price. It acts as a sort of narrator for the world around you, telling you what streets are coming, interesting places you’re passing, and more upon request. One of its most useful features for me is its ability to select a destination, and consistently tell you how far away you are from it, and what direction it’s in. While this doesn’t give you turn by turn navigation, it’s an effective way to know if you’re going the wrong way, or if you’re turn by turn solution is on the fritz. The other thing that blind square lets you do is launch another turn by turn GPS app. You can do this from the same screen you start tracking a destination from, and if you hit this button, it will launch the application, and start the tracking at the same time. This way, you don’t have to fiddle with putting in your destination manually. Other things blind square can do include calling an Uber, and opening a transit app. Right now, I know I need to walk to get my quiche. So, I push the appropriate button. The turn by turn app I use is Google Maps, as I like the way it phrases directions, and how quickly it responds to new routes. Apple maps is another good option. Once I have both app’s tracking me, I step out my buildings main doors and start walking.
The air is cold, the wind brisk, and my spirits high. The maps have given me my first step, and I follow it without much trouble. Along the road, at intersection corners, I use an app called My Way. My Way allows a user to drop points, like breadcrumbs, along a path. When you drop your last point, you can string them together into a rout, and always have a point of reference. I find this incredibly useful.
Confidently, I keep moving. The next intersection is a busy one, and all the sound is blurring together. I stand for a few minutes, and think I hear the surge going past me. I cross, and the crossing takes longer than it should. This tells me that it’s very possible I crossed diagonally, but I’ve gotten myself even more lost by assuming such things before, so I keep going.
Now, I run into a problem. The map is telling me to turn onto a side street, and the street it’s telling me to turn on isn’t there. Shrugging, I figure it’s telling me something that’s still in front of me and keep going. I’m wrong, of course. Once I’ve crossed, and turned onto the next intersection, my maps app says, “Proceed to the route…” This is an indication that I’ve gone the wrong direction, and it doesn’t know what to tell me anymore. Blindsquare is telling me that the building is in front of me to the right, in 700 feet. The first thing I do is try to backtrack and fix the diagonal crossing mistake earlier, but when this brings me to yet another unfamiliar street, I know it’s time for more action.
It’s time to flag down a person. I always feel a little leery doing this, since they don’t know where I’m going, and don’t always give directions going the right way. But it will be much faster than me trying to figure it out on my own.
“Excuse me,” I say to the passing set of boot clomps. The response shot back at me is in another language. Lovely. I keep talking, hoping that the woman speaks even a little English.
“Do you know where,” …
I’m interrupted by the woman, who has picked up my cane by the tip and started pulling it across the street. Sighing, I give up on asking her for help, and gently tug the cane out of her hand. Turning around, I quickly walk the other direction. The next person says I look like her daughter, whom she loves very much, and tries to touch my hair. She then goes on about how much she loves her family, how pretty I am, how red my hair, and how white my cane. When I ask her which direction the street I want is in, she gives no comment other than to try and touch my hair again and ask if I can get her to her children. Quickly, I tell her I must go home, and run away. The next person I stop is much friendlier, and speaks my mother tongue. I can figure out what direction I need to walk to get back on track.
I must ask several more people, who mostly gave accurate directions. But finally, after getting directions from the sixth person, I arrive at my wanted shop. Now, with quiche in hand, it’s time to go to the bus stop. This is something blind square and maps usually can’t help with, as bus stops aren’t popular places of business. Thankfully, the shop owner knew where the bus stop I needed was, and gave me good directions. With quiche and coffee in hand, I find the stop, only having to ask two people in the process. And because I left early enough, I can still get to class both full, and on time. Sighing contentedly, I load up Move It, an app that allows me to plan routs to and from places. Since I’m not at my usual stop, I need to know both what time the bus will be coming, and if I still need the same bus. Even nicer is the fact that it can track you, and the busses, in real time, letting you know when the bus you need is coming, and telling you when it’s time to get off. This allows me to eat my breakfast, and read a book with one ear as I ride the busy, noisy bus.
In telling this story, it’s probably painfully obvious that I’m not the best traveler, and I don’t pretend to be. There are a lot of people better than I am, and there are a lot of people who don’t know what a white cane or guide dog is, let alone how to use one. But travel is what you make of it. And you don’t have to be good, to get somewhere. This is something I struggle to remember in my daily life, but it is, perhaps, more important than anything any class will teach…except maybe how to make a quiche so you don’t have to go out at all. It doesn’t matter if you can independently map out a city, or struggle with the confines of the school you’ve been going to for the last six months, I promise, it’s not impossible. So, happy travels! May you have better luck than I at finding people who speak your language, if you need them. Oh, and here’s a recipe for my favorite quiche, if you’re hungry!