DC On Air 3, Meetings and Marching Home

Friday:

Today starts early, as I take a quick listen to more local programming and hit the showers by 7 AM. I’d thought about opting for late check-out, but decide that I may as well just drag my bags to the couple of places I’d be going. It’s not like they are particularly heavy.

I make my way down to the second floor and am checked out by a guy who then claims he doesn’t even work at the hotel. This makes me a little nervous, but I guess all is well as there don’t seem to have been any further ramifications. I’d located my bill inside of my room just prior to departure, and so had only to drop off the room key at the desk anyway.

Then downstairs to await the first of my two meetings with long-time twitter friends. She shows up at 8, and we walk the few steps outside to one in a small chain of French sandwich shops called Au Bon Pain.

I opt for a delicious cinnamon pastry, and a cup of French vanilla coffee. This brings me around as we make small talk, I enjoying the never-fading novelty of hearing one’s voice in person after months of following them exclusively online. Actually, I’d heard her once before via a podcast to which I often listen, but she sounds different to me even than in that recording.

She needs to head back to work, so after about a half hour we walk back to the hotel’s ground floor waiting area. I don’t really call it a lobby, since it doesn’t even have a restroom. The lobby is basically on the second floor. I speak to the woman who works behind the counter about this, and she tells me that the hotel had been opened only 5 years ago. I’m surprised they opted to construct it in this way.

While awaiting my next meeting at sometime around 11, I sit in the chair and listen to that woman have a number of conversations with other guests. I also send and receive messages on my iPhone, while a man who works at some sort of major tech company watches.

“How do you use that,” he asks. “Does it talk to you?”

I pull out the headset and let him hear VoiceOver.

“See, I’ve been trying to convince the folks at my company that we need to make sure our products are usable by, people… people like… can I say?..”

“Yes, you can say blind people,” I tell him. I kind of understand his hesitancy regarding that, given that it can be a challenge to not use words that might inadvertently offend. While I am all for making sure to speak of people in the best way possible, I know at least when it comes to me I usually accept that maybe someone isn’t fully aware of which phrases are appropriate. The intent, the knowledge that we might wish to use mainstream products and can benefit from them, is more important in my opinion.

Eventually he departs to run further errands, and I settle back in to read. My next person arrives at around 11:30, and we go back to the same restaurant as before. Only at this time of course, I choose for a more lunch-type item. The chicken sandwich, with what I think was an unusual kind of cheese, is pretty good and filling. She has a broccoli soup that she says does not taste good at all. I knew it would be interesting to talk to her, because of her love of travel and the kind of work she does in blogging and social media. She is also deaf, but could understand me pretty well. Given that both of our lesser ear is the right, it makes trying to find a workable configuration for conversation a little fun. I do thoroughly enjoy the chatter, though.

She resides in the DC area, and so knows the Metro system well. I thus ask her if she can take me back to Union Station, only a stop away, so that I can go ahead and await the Megabus there. We actually take an escalator up higher to hop into the subway car, which then makes its way underground as it approaches Union Station. This is my first time in the DC subway since 2000, and my first on a subway period since 07. The major urban transit nerd in me will always find this exciting.

Once we arrive, she suggests that I wait downstairs in the Amtrak lounge, because the seats are more comfortable and it has WiFi. But once she shows me where the Megabus will board, I opt to stay on that level and in the other waiting room she finds. I somewhat regret this, as the air smells heavily of pain, but in the end all is well.

I get in there at approximately 1:10, and don’t depart until nearly 3:20 once my bladder begins to rebel. I flag someone down who helps me find a restroom, then choose to sit on a bench outside, even closer to the roaring buses but free of the nose-numbing smell of that room. I inform someone else that I wanted to board the bus that leaves at 4:15, and so suddenly at 3:50 my bag just disappears from under my leg.

“Time to go,” that person then says.

Um, you could have warned me first, pal. I’m thinking someone is stealing my luggage!

Tweet Signpost: So long to our nation’s capital. It’s been real.

I press my nose to the window as my sightless eyes take one last look at the city and the GPS names off streets. We pass by the Verizon Center, Constitution Gardens, and the National Mall before making that bone-jarring bounce back onto the bridge, over the river, and away.

I talk to my seatmate for a few minutes, finding out that she will stay in Durham on Friday night then be picked up by friends for a fun weeklong trip to Wilmington. Then she informs me that she wishes to sleep, so I fall silent and pull out the entertainment boxes.

Not much of note happens for the rest of the trip home. We pull into Durham Station shortly after 9:30, pretty much on time. I am somewhat dismayed to learn that my cabbie hasn’t in fact shown up. She sends someone else after me, mainly so that person could get some money and experience in picking up loyal clients. Only that person decides it’d be nicer to get a big fare, securing a couple of Raleigh trips right off of that bus. So my usual cabbie hears about this, becomes somewhat upset, and makes her way back across town to get me. But by this point, I have gone ahead and hopped into the van that was to take my seatmate to her hotel, with us splitting the fare. I badly need to use the restroom, and the facilities inside of that bus station have been shut for the night. After procuring fast-food, as I know my refrigerator is all but empty, I finally, mercifully arrive home.

And that is the end of a fun trip to DC, during which some light networking especially within NPR may have occurred. One thing that organizing this did show me is that if one wants something enough and knows the right people, one can make it happen. This is a really important lesson for me to keep in mind at all times.

There is some degree of irony perhaps in my journey taking place just before the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurred. As I’ve pondered this over the last few days, I wonder if and to what extend persons with disabilities played a role in that march. I guess not all that much? I have heard of some powerful civil rights protest by individuals with disabilities, though, and just as with many minority groups in this country, much progress has been made but much remains to be done. We’re here though, our faces will be seen, and we will continue to push for more! Join me?

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On Friendship and Fantasy

Just plugging along, not a whole lot to see here. But, I know it’s high time for me to put finger to plastic key again and find something to talk about.
I suppose the most interesting occurrence has been the solidifying of a friendship at work. I’ve really gotten to know the guy to whom I referred a few entries back, as we continue to sit beside each other in our old section. We can sit there having deep talks about forbidden topics such as politics and religion, then start singing for the next hour or so. It really does make the workday go by a lot more quickly and enjoyably.
I know people have often said that this is an important reason why persons with disabilities should be employed: to really get that chance to connect with and become a part of a community. I certainly hadn’t thought I’d experience that in my current setting, though.
That connection is nice, but it demonstrates to me how few other such venues I have outside of the workplace. As the temperatures have climbed here, many of my friendly neighbors are choosing to remain inside and under the AC. I suppose I can’t blame them there, but it means I really need to find the neighborhood watering hole or something, someplace where I can go to party or just let loose for a while.
One would think I’d have found such a place after nearly half a year. Half a year already! I can’t believe I’ve been in Durham that long, as I can still clearly remember sliding on dangerous ice that pelted down relentlessly that cold, late January day.
Perhaps the biggest reason why I’ve kind of lived on the outside looking in here is that I’m a creature of habit. First, of course, I mostly just turn to my online friends for conversation. This is fine, but lacks some critical component as I’m re-discovering by my burgeoning work friendship.
Secondly, I still like to spend a lot of my off time in Chapel Hill, primarily because being in that environment makes me feel revitalized. I think though that the c-change is beginning, and soon enough this area will truly feel like home.
I want to close by offering support to an author who has crafted a book that very much explores issues surrounding friendship and disability. This book, called The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was written by Donna W. Hill, who I think has some degree of blindness herself. It seems to be a young adult fantasy piece featuring a 14-year-old blind girl named Abigail and her close male friend Baggy as main characters. Abigail’s guide dog Curly Connor, usually referred to as the “Fluffer-noodle” is also prominently featured.
During the school year, Abigail lives in a town called Applebutter Hill after having been banned from her previous locale due to a number of complicated societal reasons. She has to spend the summer with a family called the Blusterbuffs, (that’s another thing I like about this book, the strange names), because her primary guardian has left town to attend to some other business.
This story asks one to expand what one believes in, bringing back some of the magic of childhood imagination. For instance, the two main characters encounter a transportation vehicle that seems to be a sort of flying boat, and are informed that only they can see and interact with it. They also meet and take in an acorn that can expand and turn into a small man who can walk around on tiny legs.
I haven’t read the whole story yet, in fact I’m kind of just reaching the halfway point as I make my halting way along while on bus rides to and from work. But it is clear that these individuals will find adventure, get themselves into and out of troublesome situations, and generally grow closer as the story progresses. I obtained a copy from Smashwords for just $6.99, and I’d definitely say it was worth it. The writing is excellent, and one very quickly becomes swept away from mundane reality and into this interesting and unusual world. Also I’ve seen somewhere that the author uses proceeds from this book to help people gain access to Braille in areas where it might not otherwise be possible, a very worthy cause in my opinion. So check it out.

Graduation Weekend

I’m sitting on my porch as the wind blows lightly. There was, I suppose, a fairly significant storm as I slumbered an accidental 3 hours on this Saturday afternoon, but then I suppose that such slumbers are what weekends are for.
So, this is graduation weekend, the one on which I would have completed my studies at the University of North Carolina if I’d managed to survive. I’ve been reflecting some on that, even as I celebrated with others on making it to that milestone.
First, my cousin and his fiancé came up to attend her hooding ceremony. Hooding? Yep, that’s what one gets upon completing a Ph.D. Wow, I have a lot of respect for one who can actually follow through with that.
I hadn’t realized that the “hood” was kind of a robe-like thing that one drapes over the shoulders. When she put it on me, I joked that her power had been transferred to me. DR. Miller!
“No, I want that back,” she said.
Then, I have the pleasure of attending a party thrown for one of my friends who has just received her bachelor’s degree. One of the nicest people I’ve known, she as part of the Community Empowerment Fund, an agency that especially helps people in the Durham/Chapel Hill area avoid homelessness, worked with me for much of 2012. She taught me some basic job skills and helped to improve my confidence when conducting the search. When I considered volunteering at UNC Hospitals, an idea that never quite worked out due to financial constraints sadly, she walked me to and from the place I would need to go a few times in summer heat until I got it. She and another person pitched in to assist me in moving my heavy furniture from my previous apartment into storage right before I headed off to PineBluff in September. And finally, she’s just a great friend who cares. It’s kind of a shame I lost my entries on the 2012 experience, or else I’d link up to them.
Anyway, I meet some of her family at this party after having been transported there by another awesome CEF personality. The host house is in Chapel Hill, but I think in Chatham County. The setting is idyllic: a nice deck outside that allows us to be splashed in sunshine, a long, curving gravel driveway, and separation from other houses by some woods. I can’t help thinking to myself that this would be a wonderful place from which to read and write, although perhaps I could get a little lonely out there.
They have food, including turkey sausages, a mix of fruits, m&m’s, and coffeecake. We eat this while chattering and being entertained by some kids who put on an impromptu jump rope show. Ah, I remember the days of doing that sort of thing. I don’t even know if I can get this long, lanky body off of the ground now.
And so this has made for a nice weekend thus far. The best part of it is getting to hang out and spend time with family and friends, and I hope that continues. I’ve kind of felt that the writing well is dry regarding my personal life these days, thus a greater participation in entries dealing with a specific topic or observance. But I wanted now to let people in a bit on how I’m feeling and what’s going on here. There will be more soon, I’m sure.
To all of you receiving any kind of degree this weekend or in the coming months, I offer my congratulations. Go forth and shake the world!