January 20, 2013

Not Just For Blindos Anymore


Every few years it becomes clear it’s time to replace the cane. The internal elastic band holding the four aluminum sections together starts to get loose and floppy, the plastic tip gets worn down and misshapen, and after rapping it against cement walls, curbs, garbage cans, people, bikes, parked cars, mailboxes, iron fences and whatever the hell else is out there, the reflective paint gets chipped away, making me a very easy and tempting target for careening automobiles at night.

            Normally what I do when it’s time for a new cane is hop a train and head up to that awful, overpriced blindo novelty store in Midtown. You can get most any blindo-targeted doo-dad you like there, little of it useful. Giant playing cards, giant chess sets, talking calculators, computer screen enhancer thingees that don’t really do anything, books by people other than me, clocks that chirp like different birds every hour, and assorted little techno-gizmos. You can also get plenty of attitude from the self-righteous staff, apparently chosen to work there by God Almighty himself. I hate that fucking place. But they sell canes so I go there.

            This time around I decided to make things easier on myself by simply ordering one of the damned things online, just like the rest of the damned populace.

            So I went to Amazon and typed in “blind canes” (what the hell else would I type in?) and waited.

            Sure enough, a few minutes later a page came up offering a list of several variants on a very simple idea, ranging in price from about ten all the way up to seventy-five dollars. I don’t know what all came with that seventy-five dollar cane, but I bet it was pretty fancy indeed—turn signals, a hand warmer in the grip, built-in crotch protection and an ass scratcher.

            Well, I didn’t need all that, so I just clicked on the cane at the top of the list. It looked legit—it was put out by a medical supply company and ran about thirty dollars. That was fair enough, I figured, given that’s what I’d been paying at the blindo store for the last twenty years.

            Now, for the past few years I’ve been speculating as to why the people living and working and clogging the sidewalks in Manhattan no longer seem to comprehend what a red and white cane represents. There have been several plausible theories: these people are simply too preoccupied with their personal gadgetry to notice the blindo on a collision course with them; they’re simply too fucking self-absorbed to notice the blindo on a collision course; the fact that elaborate walking canes have become such a standard hip-hop fashion accessory leads them to believe that my cane is merely a low-rent pimp stick; or my personal favorite, that the politically correct excision of blind jokes from the culture means that these people no longer regularly see red and white canes as part of hilarious, side-splitting slapstick routines on TV sitcoms and cartoons, and so no longer recognize them for what they are.

            But now I think I’ve found the real answer.

            At first—at the top of the page—things seemed as normal and boring as you’d expect. It was a four-section aluminum cane wrapped in reflecting tape. The note that it came with a “wrist strap” gave me a moment’s pause. I knew what they were talking about, and knew it wasn’t a wrist strap. In fact I’d been warned never to use it as a wrist strap as it might well lead to my untimely death in any number of terrible ways. But that was neither here nor there. It looked like a plain old cane. Then I scrolled a little further down the page.

            As many of you know, Amazon will often try to sell you MORE MORE MORE by offering a special deal if you also buy these other products at the same time. They pulled that sneaky one here, too, but instead of offering anything that might actually be useful to someone in need of a new cane (and I’m hard pressed to think of what that might be—shades, maybe? One of those bird clocks?) they offered a deal if you also bought a referee’s whistle and a “party favor penalty flag.”

            I can be very slow at times, so at first this merely confused me. What the hell would I need with a whistle and a penalty flag? But scrolling further down the page to where Amazon lists the other products often purchased by people who bought a blindo cane, I found links to a referee’s jersey, face paint, and something they called a “Vampira Kit.”

            Things were becoming a bit clearer. Red and white canes, see, were merely a Halloween costume prop.

            The final kicker came at the bottom of the page, where I found the “most helpful customer review,” which I reproduce here in its entirety. (It’s worth noting that according to Amazon, “9 of 9 People Found This Review Helpful.”)

I'm super delighted with this product. Initially I needed it really quickly for a cosplay of Terezi, from Homestuck. As in, the Con was coming up and I still hadn't ordered my dang cane yet. I decided to go with this cane and put in my order seeing that the delivery date would be two days before the con. Kinda stretching it but I needed one! Two days later I got a message from Amazon saying that my payment method failed meaning my cane would not be delivered yet. I was pretty stressed out seeing it wouldn't come in time and they wouldn't let me cancel the order. so I looked around at local stores and found a store that did carry it. today I planned on going to get it after breakfast but guess what showed up at my door a DAY after the payment was fixed. My cane. I was extremely happy and despite the payment problems I'm really happy that it came way earlier than expected. Also, it's extremely sturdy and looks perfect.

            Well, at least it all had a happy ending.

            Okay, admittedly I have no idea what the fuck Mr. Half-Literate here means by “a cosplay of Terezi, from Homestuck. As in, the Con was coming up and I still hadn't ordered my dang cane yet,” but that’s beside the point. He needed a prop and needed it quickly, and as a result his review was not about the cane in question, but about Amazon’s efficient delivery system and the hard working men and women at UPS. Which leaves me wondering about the people in search of a cane who found this review helpful. Did they all have a big Hooberbloob coming up and need a cane by Saturday, or were they more impressed by the fact that the cane in question “looked perfect”? (Not pausing to consider that perhaps it “looked perfect” because it was a real fucking cane, Mortimer!)

            If I was one of those bitchy, whiny blindos who’s always firing off strong letters of protest whenever their delicate sensibilities are offended, this all might annoy me. Instead I find it incredibly funny. Almost as funny as all that crap that’s sold to real blindos at that Midtown store. I also find it a great relief, as now I understand that all those assholes on the sidewalk likely think that I’m simply getting into character while on my way to a costume party. (Really funny thing is that on Halloween I generally stay in for fear of just that interpretation.)

            Nevertheless, I opted to look for another cane. Maybe a real one this time. When I returned to the search page and continued scrolling, I had to pause again when the voice on my computer announced a link to a “Blind Kit,” apparently related to that earlier “Vampira Kit.” “One size fits all,” it promised, and best of all it was only six dollars. So why in the hell had I been wasting all that money elsewhere all these years?

            I made a mental note to place an order, but only after I found myself a “Retarded Chinaman Cripple Kit.”


You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.