SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
July 14, 2013

The Adjustment Counselor

 

Well, that Kafkaesque blindo services carnival train rocks merrily along its endless and useless circular track.

            Two weeks after seeing a “low vision specialist” (i.e. an unmotivated eye doctor) I received a call from another woman from the same organization. It took me a while to figure this out, as she had such a heavy, wet lisp it was difficult to decipher who the hell she was or what the hell she wanted. I couldn’t even fully understand her name. It was either “Leigh Lubark,” “Rhea Rhubarb,” some combination thereof or something in between. I decided not to worry about it until I had to ask for her. Maybe I’d just do an impression and hope the receptionist knew who I was talking about.

            Anyway, she had a title that sounded just like the others—some generic mish-mash of bureaucratic adjectives that ultimately meant nothing at all—and asked me to come in and meet with her Friday. At least making things easy, she was in the same building, on the same floor even, as all the others who had titles that sounded just like hers.

            “Let’s see what we can do for you,” she said.

            I’d be curious to find that out myself one of these days.

            “Have you been to the low-vision specialist?”

            “Yeah, couple weeks ago.”

            “Are you seeing him again?”

            “He told me there was nothing he could do for me, so I’m guessing not.”

            “Okay, good.”

            Although she mentioned something about giving me “an assessment” (they’ve all given me “assessments,” apparently, but to be honest I’ve never been able to tell what this meant or when it was happening), but from everything else she said I was getting the impression she was my new blindo genie.

            A blindo genie, for those who don’t know, is an assigned employee of the State whose job it is to provide me with useless gadgets and knick-knacks that will supposedly make my day-to-day life much easier. I had one once before, over twenty years ago, who came to my apartment for six straight Saturdays. He was a little round Indian fellow, very enthusiastic sort, who taught me how to darn socks and cook a casserole. He also provided me with oven mitts that went up to my elbows and a little plastic thingee to hook over the side of a glass. When you poured something into the glass, the plastic thingee would start to whistle as it neared the top.

            “Y’know,” I told him as he demonstrated this, “I usually just stick my finger in there. Works just as well.”

            In any case I have the mitts and the thingee to this day, though I’ve never used either. Nor have I darned a sock or made a casserole. He was still a very nice fellow. It left me a bit curious about what sort of neat toys this woman, whatever her name was, would offer. It was a whole new hi-tech age, after all. Who knows what they might have done with those whistling drink stick thingees in the meantime?

            When I showed up at the office on Friday, a repetitive klaxon was blaring down the hall. “Did someone escape?” I asked the receptionist.

            “They’re testing the fire alarm,” she replied over the noise. She did not sound amused. I’ve got to learn to stop cracking wise with these people.

            “Oh,” I said. On the bright side the alarm allowed me to get away with only vaguely approximating the name of the woman I was there to see without resorting to crude impressions. Then I found a chair and took a seat.

            My new genie, Ms. Rhubarb, showed up at the appointed time, which is something I have to give these people—they’re never ever late. She was a merry and plump woman in her late fifties who led me down the same long, dim hallway I’d been down several times before. Every one of the offices I’d been to had been at the end of that hall, which left me wondering who worked in all the offices we passed along the way. What did they do, and why? It was all very quiet. Apart from the receptionist and Ms. Rhubarb, no one else seemed to be around.

            “Okay,” she said, after sitting me down at a conference table and flopping open her file. “Now, why are you here?”

            “Um, because you called me and told me to come today.”

            “No, I mean why did you contact the agency? What were you hoping we could help you with?”

            “Oh, well—” I began. Then I stopped. I no longer had any idea why I was there or what I was hoping for. All I knew was that I kept coming back and seeing different people who all told me many similar things but never did much. “Um,” I said again. “I really don’t know.”

            “Well, that’s okay. Let’s see what you need.” She then proceeded to get a very broad picture of my present living arrangements, then one by one ran through a series of typical daily situations: cooking, doing the laundry, paying bills, cleaning, and telling time. As she got a better picture of just how barren my existence is, she closed in on a few products she thought might make my life easier. So at some point I will be receiving the following:

·         A new wallet with slots for different bills of different denominations. How I decide what denomination any given bill is will still be up to me.

·         A guide to help me address envelopes. This is a thin sheet of plastic with holes cut in it. Amazingly enough, this may be the most useful thing of the lot, as my envelope addressing abilities have gone straight down the crapper over the years.

·         A talking key chain that announces the time in a pleasantly modulated female voice.

·         Some stickers with bumps on them.

·         A tube of brightly colored, fast-hardening goop that I can use to make bumps of my own on things.

            She also recommended a course in basic Braille. The course lasts several months, and purports to teach me the letters of the alphabet as well as numbers. Upon my successful completion of this course I will be given a Braille label maker which I can then use to make my own Braille labels which could then be affixed to objects. (I’d really, really rather not do that).

            There was no mention of oven mitts or whistling drink sticks. Perhaps her files showed I’d already received my quota, and so was no longer eligible. In any case, it seems I was now set for life. It also seems the hi-tech revolution hasn’t quite reached the blind industry yet. Still, she was doing what she could with what were obviously limited resources.

            “These will take a few months to arrive,” she said.

            (I didn’t mention I could probably get everything from Amazon at a discount and have it delivered in two days. These folks seemed to know what they were doing, and besides, they had no computers.)

            “And when they arrive and you come in here to pick them up, we’ll take you into the kitchen to see how well you get along in there.”

            Okay, this was suddenly becoming a bit more complicated than I expected. But so long as I’d have my new wallet with me, I knew I’d be fine. You’d think one of these days these people would figure out for themselves that one interesting tack might be to ask actual blindos what sorts of things might be useful to them. And if that ever does happen, I’d love to see the insane list they end up with.

 

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