SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
November 10, 2013

Door Prizes

 

In early June I took yet another trip to the offices of the blindo agency, this time to meet with a Blindo Genie, a what you might call jubilant woman of about seventy with a heavy lisp whose job involves helping the blind adjust to life in terms of daily household tasks. Cooking and cleaning, mostly. As I was more or less adjusted to these things by now (even if I didn’t do them particularly well), she nevertheless promised to give me a multitude of gifts that would make my life easier. Although she couldn’t make any promises about the talking clock radio I’d requested, she would most certainly provide me with stickers with bumps on them (to help identify certain otherwise hard-to-identify objects like on/off switches), a bottle of goop I could use to make my own bumps, and a new blindo-friendly wallet. It was all very kind and useless. As we parted that morning, she told me it would likely take a few weeks or longer for these things to arrive, and that I shouldn’t worry about that.

            I didn’t. In fact I didn’t think about it at all. I was used to seeing these people once then never hearing from them again. Then almost four months later, in late September, once I’d completely and utterly purged the Genie and all thoughts of a talking clock radio out of my head, the phone rang. I didn’t pick up after recognizing the lisp.

            “I’m so very, very sorry,” she said. “I told you I was going to call you and didn’t. Your file slipped to the bottom of the pile, and, well, I’m just very sorry.”

            She went on to ask me if I could come in to complete the second half of my rehabilitation training. I had no idea anymore what the first half of my rehabilitation training had involved, but what the hell? I called her back the next day to set up an appointment. Once we’d agreed on the following Tuesday, she apologized again that she wasn’t able to find a talking clock radio (I wonder where she looked?), but did indeed have a wallet for me.

            “That’s very nice. thank you.”

            “It’s here with your name on it, and I’ll give it to you when you come in.”

            Later that night I told Morgan, “she mentioned the wallet, but didn’t say anything at all about my stickers with the bumps on them. Swear to god, if I show up and there are no bumpy stickers, there’s gonna be a hostage situation.”

            Having slept a total of fifteen minutes the night before, on Tuesday morning I headed into the blindo agency groggy and numb and itching for a fight with anyone who tried to cheat me out of the bumpy stickers I so richly deserved. I got lost twice on the way, rode the elevator with an autistic girl who groaned a lot, entered the waiting room and took a seat.

            At ten on the money (if nothing else these blindo agency people are always prompt), the Genie (I’ve yet to determine her real name through the lisp) appeared in front of me as jubilant and bubbly as ever, ending each sentence with a small laugh. She led me downstairs to the practice kitchen, had me don an apron, then presented me with my new blindo-friendly wallet. I wasn’t sure quite why the apron was necessary for this, but I was ready for anything. What makes it a blindo-friendly wallet, see, is that it contains dividers to keep bills of different denominations separate. It’s not a bad idea, really. As things stand when I leave in the morning it’s imperative I know exactly how many bills of each denomination I’m carrying and in what order, so I don’t get screwed if I have to buy something. The problem with this new wallet here is there’s still no way to determine which bill is which, and so which bill goes into which slot. A more interesting problem, I thought, is there were only three slots for bills when we generally need to juggle four, even five denominations. I guess whoever designed it didn’t put much stock in the economic viability of most blindos.

            “And look, it has a zipper over here,” she noted.

            “That’s good, certainly,” I replied. “Thank you.” I slipped the new empty and flimsy wallet in my pocket. There didn’t seem to be any more gifts forthcoming despite the promised tidal wave. She certainly hadn’t mentioned anything about bumpy stickers yet.

            Instead she handed me a cucumber and a peeler, hoping to test my peeling skills. It was probably all just a cheap ploy to con me into making her lunch, but I went ahead and did it anyway. Man, I was tired. Stupid wallet.

            I guess my peeling skills were up to snuff, so once I was finished with that she handed me a knife and asked me to slice it, showing me a trick with a fork that, she explained, was less about preventing injuries to my fingers than easing the stress on the sighted folks around me who might get nervous at the prospect of a blind man with a knife.

            “Well that’s very clever,” I told her, not mentioning that I was more than occasionally prone to slicing the hell out of myself. Screw the antsy people around me—I was happy to save on the band-aids. It’s just too bad I hate cucumbers.

            After that I made the mistake of mentioning that cracking eggs was a bit of a bugaboo for me. They always seem to explode in my hands. An instant later she produced a bowl and a dozen eggs. Of course now as I cracked the first egg against the side of the bowl everything went perfectly. Same with the second and the third.

            “Oh,” I said. “Never mind, then.”

            That was apparently it for my kitchen rehab training, and I was now fully prepared should I ever get the hankering to whip up a batch of cucumber omelettes. The Genie threw the eggs and the sliced cucumber away, which seemed an awful waste when I’m sure that autistic girl on the elevator would have been very happy with a bowl of raw eggs and a little sliced cuke.

            She then led me into another room where we sat down at a table and she produced a plastic bag. “These are things I thought you might find useful.”

            Okay then, I thought. This is more like it.

            One after another she began handing me my prizes. There was a small talking clock which, if I wanted it to, would announce the hour every hour.

            “Is there any way I can insure it will never, ever do anything like that?”

            There was also a talking thermometer, a pair of what she called “Toaster Tongs” (to pluck stuck and burning slices of bread from the toaster), and spatula tongs, for the safe and easy flipping of things in the frying pan.

            Oh my god,” I said as she handed me the spatula tongs. “These are fucking great! Wow, I wish I’d thought of this one a long time ago.” I was far more genuinely excited about the spatula tongs than I should’ve been. As I fiddled with them, clapping the flat ends together repeatedly to test their flexibility, she reached back into the bag and pulled out a tube of goo and my bumpy stickers. I no longer cared. Not when I had this new set of spatula tongs.

            “Uh-huh, fine,” I said as she attempted to explain where and how the stickers and the goo should be used.

            “You don’t want to make the same mistake some people do. If you want to distinguish between an on and off button on a microwave, you don’t want to put a bump on both of them. That would defeat the whole purpose.”

            “You bet, uh-huh.”

            I thanked her kindly, then reluctantly replaced everything in the bag. It really was a mighty respectable haul for a social agency with no funding.

            I then had to sign a form confirming I really had received all my new presents (I guess to make sure the social workers weren’t just selling everything at inflated prices online). After I’d signed she said, “Okay then, I’m now going to close your file.”

            “You’re saying that’s it? I mean, that’s all there is to everything?”

            “Unless you can think of anything else.”

            “Oh.” I felt a strange sense of disappointment at this. Closing my file sounded so final, as if I’d been under investigation but they couldn’t find anything to pin on me.

            It also struck me that the bag in my hand was full of what were essentially door prizes for making it through to the end. After all those social workers and all those hoops I’d jumped through, this was it. I’d done everything that was asked of me, and now I never had to come back there again. Only question remaining as I considered the prizes I’d been handed was whether I’d won or lost.

 

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