Rescued: A Bus Driver Saved Me

by Sally Hobart Alexander

Recently I was reminded that my blindness puts me at risk and that my guide dog can goof. I decided to meet my husband at the corner of Morewood and Forbes where he’d arrive on the airport bus.

I’d made the trek down Forbes Avenue many times, and after a week of living solo, I was high on independence.

When I set out with Flossie, the weather stank, raining heavily. I heard no other pedestrian footsteps. At the corner of Wightman and Forbes, I turned west. Flossie whined, because any time I turned that way I walked to Craig Street or Morewood. It’s a 30—40 minute walk, not including the return trip, usually made at night, when she’d rather be in her cozy crate. Though daylight now, it poured. I carried an umbrella that didn’t shield her. She shook and sprayed me while we waited, in revenge.

“Flossie, forward,” I said when the first car moved on Forbes. It headed east. In hindsight, I should have waited to parallel a car moving west beside me.

Flossie obeyed, but just as I was beginning to judge that enough time had elapsed for her to have reached the opposite curb, I knew I was still in the street. Yikes!

Okay. Scenario 1—she veered into Forbes, so I should give right commands. I listened for the cars. None. Scenario 2—she veered right into Wightman—

“Beep! Beeeep!” A car whizzed past on my left. I knew from the sound it wasn’t grinding up Wightman hill, so neither was I. Forbes, I concluded.

“Right,” I screamed, “Oh God, right, Flossie!”

Just as I stepped onto the sidewalk, someone grabbed my elbow. “You’re in the street,” a man called. He jerked me forward.

I was grateful, but trying to process everything. Looking back now, I realized—vision isn’t just the dominant sense. It’s the most efficient. Hearing and touch suffice as substitutes, but they’re slower in processing information. One glance, should I have been granted a temporary peek, would have told me exactly what had happened—what to do. But using hearing and touch, I had to absorb, then analyze all the stimuli coming my way.

“What were you doing?” the man continued—his tone suggesting that I should be home where I belonged. “A car almost hit you!”

Shame. My failings exposed. Conflict—I felt grateful, but lousy, too.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Murray,” I said, but, of course, I meant Murdoch. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Embarrassment did that to me.

The man pushed me in some direction across some street. “I have to go,” he said. “I have a bus full of people.”

Oh no. A bus driver. He’d pulled over to rescue me. What a good, amazing guy!

“Okay, Murray is that way.”

“I wanted Murdoch,” I said.

“My passengers...I...”

“What’s the street on my right,” I called as he rushed away.

“Wightman.”

“And the street in front of me?”

“Forbes.” And then I heard him, “Sorry everybody.”

Oh no. How many people witnessed my complete incompetence? What kind of representative of the blind was I? I wanted to yell to the passengers, “I never do this! I’m generally pretty adept, even graceful. I’ve just pulled off a week without my husband...” But the bus roared off—behind schedule no doubt.

Then it hit me. I was more worried about appearance than danger. And what about the danger I could have caused—a car swerving away from me? Sometime I’d have to talk to a psychologist about the focus on the lesser of two problems.

For now, I pulled a U—turn, crossing Wightman, Forbes, then Wightman again. Flossie and I dripped and slogged and proceeded west. At each intersection she shook to rid herself of the rain. I did some mental shaking, to rid myself of the angst.

The bus driver had been a good guy. I’d scared him silly, and he’d left his post to help. His duty was to his passengers, but he reacted to what seemed like a higher responsibility—rescuing the bewildered blind.

Some friends with disabilities claim that “people are hell.” They disable us more than our impairments do. That hasn’t been my experience. At a disability task force meeting recently, a woman asked what we needed.

“More audible traffic signals,” another blind person answered.

Others said more education of the public to dispel myths, fears.

Sure, the bus driver shouldn’t push, but let me take his arm. But who cares about proper technique in a crisis? He didn’t have time. And I’ll take rescue over method any day.

Flossie and I met up with Bob, and I told him of the bus driver’s kindness. Here’s to an unnamed man behind the wheel of a 61 A, B, or C. Many, many thanks.