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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Nose Saves the Day

I had a situation on campus today. The bus driver was
leading me to the building for my ASL class. I knew
something was wrong because we walked quite a long way. I
know about how long it takes me to walk from the bus to the
door. This driver led me too far.
I was not too concerned at first. I had already used my
special "Are we at the Languages building? Yes? No?"
system to confirm that we were at the right place. I just
assumed the driver had parked the bus in a different spot
than usual. Maybe someone was blocking the place where the
bus normally stops.
When we reached the door, however, I realized I was not
where I should be. The approach was wrong. So was the
angle of the door handle. I went inside the building and
felt around with my guide cane. The rubber mat felt right
so I relaxed a little.
I followed the edge of the mat with my cane, just like I was
trained to do. But the mat ended too soon. Suddenly, I
realized I had no idea where I was. Was I even in the
right building? What should I do? Should I turn around
and yell for the driver to come back? Should I explore the
building to see if I could find a land mark I recognized?
Should I use my Braille Note to text message my dad for
help?
Okay. Calm down. Think. Use your other senses.
It instantly came to me. I knew exactly where I was and
what had happened. I took a few steps forward and felt the
wall. There was the bulletin board. I followed the length
of the bulletin board until it ended. That's my land mark
for where to cross the hall. And there was the elevator.
Crisis over.
For whatever reason, the bus driver had walked me outside
around the building and led me into a different door. I
always pass by that door as I walk down the hall. The feel
of the rubber mat tells me that I am nearing the bulletin
board and need to be ready to cross the hall.
So how did I figure it out? What saved the day. It was my
nose. The answer came to me in the scent of coffee. That's
how I knew where I was.
Every time I go to class, I walk down that hall and pass
that location. And every time I do, I smell coffee right
before I hit the rubber mat. It makes me think of the
teacher's lounge in high school. Maybe it's a small room
with vending machines and a coffee machine. I really don't
know what it is. I just know that area always smells like
coffee.
I bet other students pass by and never notice the scent.
They see the vending machine or the coffee pot, but they
don't pay attention to the smell. I can't see, so I have to
use my other senses. My nose has become a powerful tool.
It gives me much useful information about the environment
and people around me.
You know what they say - "The nose always knows." Well,
maybe they don't really say that. But when it comes to
people who are deaf-blind, it's often the truth.

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