I actually spoke to somebody on the bus home from college this afternoon! It’s kind of a long story, really, but here’s how it goes:
Due to some bad planning on my part, my afternoon’s pretending while walking from college to the bus stop ended up with me boarding the bus still as a “blind” person. This of course had not been my intention, and now I was in an awkward situation where shortly after climbing onto the bus “blind”, stumbling up the stairs to the upper floor, and making a big show of myself to the entire floor by trying to sit down where someone else was already sitting, I had to pack my cane away, open my eyes, and put my glasses back on such that it was clear to anyone who cared to watch me that I was only a pretender.
As both the front and second-to-front seats were already taken, I sat a little further back. I guess that perhaps my obvious pretending to be blind had bothered the lady behind me, because a little while later I asked her a question and she just muttered “pshaw” in my direction and ignored me (but then that might just be her character, for she didn’t seem to care either that eating potato crisps on the bus is a direct violation of the terms of service). Well so much for her, I thought, and promptly got up and marched into a seat further back, making a point of showing everybody – except the two young ladies in the front seat – that I was not blind.
She remained on the bus for the entire journey, but fortunately the whoever-it-was (I can’t remember) in the second-to-front seat soon got up and I took his/her place, and was now sitting directly behind the two young ladies who’s seats I had previously tried to sit in while I was still pretending (they were being very quiet, thus I did not realise that the front seat was taken).
Observing that they were young, I asked if they were also attending college. The one on the right said that she was, and went on to explain that she was studying animation (at least I think that’s what it was) and I said that I was studying computing. We spoke a little bit about our courses, and then she introduced me to her sister who was sitting next to her and who was also going to college (I can’t remember what she was studying, but she did tell me).
I was almost ready to end the conversation when I decided to ask the girls their names, and then I gave mine, and then I said (perhaps somewhat foolishly, but I guess I was wanting to clear it up) that they might well see me on the college campus with my white cane (white canes are, after all, a good way to identify someone).
That’s when I had to explain. That’s when I had to explain why I was the blind kid who had tried to sit in their seats earlier. That’s when I had to explain why I was now wearing my glasses and looking at everything in the way that a sighted person involuntarily does. That’s when I said “by the way, I’m not actually blind”.
I expected some sort of mockery or some other kind of insult, but instead the one on the right, who was the more talkative one, said “that’s OK”. So then I went on, and explained that I had BIID and I explained what that was. And they were OK with it. And it was wonderful, because they told me how the one suffered from chronic depression and how the less talkative one was in fact partially deaf, and how because of their own disabilities they were able to understand both my Asperger’s (of which I had previously informed them) and my BIID. Despite not suffering from the same issues themselves, they were completely understanding of my issues, empathising with me about how much stress it causes and how pretending is able to help to relieve it, and sympathising when I explained how a lot of people do not appreciate my needs and assume that my pretending is a form of mockery of those who suffer from disabilities for real. In short, they were completely understanding.
And that in turn lead to a wonderful discussion about how we are all unique, and how society often looks only at our physical differences and overlooks our internal, hidden differences. And then we spoke about how we are nevertheless all connected, for although we are all unique we are still likely to have something in common with someone who we meet. And then the two sisters described to me how close their relationship was, as the one who was partially deaf needed assistance from the other, but was in turn able to emotionally support the other with her chronic depression. They really sounded close, and I got on with them simply because their own issues permitted them to appreciate me and look past my differences – often you’ll find that those who are different in their own way will be more accepting of your differences and thus you as a person.
And that was when I asked them when they’d be back in college, took note of which bus stop they got off at, and agreed to meet them on the bus again next Tuesday.