As promised last week, here is a reprint of Janet Parmerter DiNola’s winning story in a recent NFB contest entitled “My Talking Crotch Watch”. We really think you’ll enjoy it :). Feel free to post a comment about experiences you’ve had – we’d love to read them!
“In recent decades, an unfeeling thief has robbed a valuable possession from thousands of men and women. In some cases, this thief quietly appears at night, long gone by morning, stealing their most precious irreplaceable treasure, their sight.
The name of this culprit is Macular Degeneration. It has been a devastating shock for many, but thanks to modern technology, coping with this disease has become easier. Since the age of nine, I have struggled with this now familiar eye disease. Therefore, I for one am grateful technology did not leave the blind in the dark.
For visually impaired individuals, talking aids now make independence a reality. For example, in my home, there are clocks talking from different rooms, different handbags, and different times of day and night. There are talking desk clocks, talking alarm clocks, talking kitchen clocks, talking travel clocks, talking stopwatch clocks, talking calculator clocks, and talking wristwatches everywhere. These clocks are all shapes and sizes, but the tiniest is the talking mini clock in my purse. In our quiet home, when the hour strikes and all clocks begin speaking this synchronized cacophony of voices, my usually patient husband wants to see time fly…right out the window!
When having overnight guests, I attempted to turn off each clock but inevitably would miss one. Kindly, my daughter began warning our guests about the speaking clocks, after they terrified two of our Italian friends. The two girls said they were frightened all night, “Earing dee leetell teeny voices.”
Now this particular story, and believe me there are many, many clock stories, began in Europe. Unfortunately, for this clock, it also ENDED there. That troublesome watch would never take another trip with me. Its next journey was a solo, non-stop direct flight to the garbage pail.
However, in its defense, it did have one redeeming feature…its size. It was the tiniest little thing, the size of a credit card, with a small, square, raised button. When this button was pushed, it announced the time in a female voice. The problem was, this tiny square was raised just enough so if anything inside my purse touched the button, the clock automatically began an irritating time announcement. Often, the button stuck in the talk position, and repeated the time like a rap song. If the clock showed 5:36 PM, it would rap…“ffifififififive ththithithithirty sisisix.”
Compounding that annoyance, right before its demise, it plagued me with a new dysfunction. Whenever it became cold, it started making strange high-pitched screeching electronic sounds, and stopped only after warming up. All this, rapidly lead to this tiny tickers downward plunge to “the old clock graveyard.”
At work, this tiny talking clock was indispensable and always with me. Being in the travel industry, arriving at each museum, city or hotel on time was essential. With my visual impairment, as strange as it may seem, for decades I have escorted groups of American tourists to foreign countries. My goal was, and still is, to help their International vacation be as fun and problem free as possible. Europe is my forte but I have accompanied groups to places like China, Russia, and the Middle East. With assistive tools for the blind, like my typical white cane, and talking devices, I am able to lead tourists around tiny quaint villages, to bustling world capitals. Honestly, I must admit because I was a skier, my favorite tours of all were ski tours to the western states, and the majestic Alps of Italy, France, Austria, and Switzerland. At that point in time, my next job was a ski tour in Switzerland. However, as you will soon come to find out, this infuriating clock’s time was definitely up!
To set the scene, we must move back counterclockwise in time, to my final tour with that crazy clock. The saga began as my tour group departed from a ski trip in the Jung Frau region of Switzerland. After the one-week tour, we included a three-day stopover in Belgium. In order to catch the first flight from Zurich to Brussels, we had to wake up at 4:00 AM. Though the group only had a few hours’ sleep, everyone seemed comfortable on the plane except me. I was freezing! Under my seat was a crack on the floor to the unheated cargo area below. A constant icy cold breeze blew directly on my feet making me miserable. My legs were bitter cold, and the liquid contents inside my purse turned solid. As if things were not bad enough, all of a sudden, this continuous, high-pitched, piercing sound exploded from my purse. It was my tiny, temperamental timepiece again reacting to its intense hatred of cold. Quickly, I cupped the credit card size clock in my hand trying to warm it up and curtail the exasperating electronic shrieks. But, regrettably, it screeched even louder! In an effort to muffle the shrieks, while still in a sleep-deprived state of confusion, I thought I could stop the piercing sound by tucking it next to my belly under the waistband of my pants. Soon, the clock warmed up and Little by little the shrieks lessened until there was silence. Being thoroughly exhausted, in seconds I drifted into a comatose sleep.
Surprisingly, the rough landing did not even wake me. All of a sudden, someone shook me and laughed, “Wake up! We’re in Belgium!” Startled, I awoke in a daze, and again heard others from my tour group shout, “Hey, you have to get up, we’ve landed!” Still half-asleep, I grabbed my purse and coat, and by instinct jumped to my feet and stretched my arms up to open the overhead bin. Simultaneously, as I stretched up and pull out my carryon, the tiny clock shifted from my waistband, slid down my silky panty hose, and stopped at the top of my thigh just below my crotch. As a result, every time I put my right leg forward to take a step, my thigh pushed on the raised button and in a muffled voice, my crotch proudly announced the time. Unavoidably with every agonizing step I took, my crotch blatantly said, “Its 8:30 AM, its 8:30 AM, its 8:30 AM.”
Sylvia, a friend from back home, burst into a fit of laughter because she knew the muffled, crotch time announcement was my crazy clock. People looked around, turned their heads and wondered where this semi-muffled time announcement was coming from. With a confused and embarrassed red face, I tried to ignore people who curiously stared at my crotch. At first, I wondered whether I should stop and try to dig it out. DUHH, NO! What was I thinking? As I envisioned a bizarre scene of digging the clock out of my pants, I reasoned, that would LOOK really, really strange! In a split second, after weighing the matter of sound verses looks, I decided I would much rather SOUND really, really strange, than LOOK really, really strange, so I left it in my pants.
As if things were not bad enough, my crotch watch changed into that funky STUCK rapper mode, as I began strutting down the long, seemingly endless aisle. With each agonizing step my discomfort grew as my crotch did its wrap thing with, “It’s eh ehh ehh ehh eight thi thir thir thir thirty two.”
“It’s eh ehh ehh ehh eight thir thir thir thir thirty two.”
“It’s eh ehh ehh ehh eight thir thir thir thir thirty two.”
Hysterical laughter came from my tour group, but I had a sickening feeling when I heard the dragged out wrap version of, “It is 8:32, 8:33, and 8:34.” Frantically, in an effort to shut the humiliating thing up and stop my thigh from pressing on the button, I began dragging my right leg behind me. As a result of this abnormal gait, I looked like Quasimodo doing a STEP / DRAG, STEP / DRAG, STEP / DRAG.
Again, weighing the level of embarrassment in my choices, I wondered which brought me a greater feeling of humiliation, the talking crotch watch or the Quasimodo drag. Either way, to say the very least, it was a mortifying choice! As I recall, I did a little combo of the two, then finally came to the end of the plane.
With my tour group waiting in the terminal, my hysterics turning to tears, and my makeup running down my face, Sylvia and I prepared to disembark. As we turned left to walk through the galley, Silvia looked ahead, then covered her mouth and bent over with laughter. Through her giggles, she forced out the words, “Get this Janet, the whole crew is lined up, shaking hands, and saying good-bye to every passenger leaving the plane.” Sure enough, there they were; the pilot, the co-pilot, and seven flight attendants, perfectly lined up like officers at attention bidding farewell to their troops. It was certainly an impressive gesture on the part of Sabina airlines, but, I groaned, “Of all times, what timing, not now, WHY now?” In all my years of tourism, this was the first time I ever experienced nine people from a flight crew on a happy handshake line. Even the “Friendly Skies” of United were not THAT friendly. In any case, considering my current dilemma, that lineup was a bit too friendly for me!
All of a sudden, like a cartoon light bulb appearing over someone’s head, a crazy thought came into my mind. If I slipped into the cockpit until everyone left the plane, I could sneak out when the cleaning crew entered. For a split second, I actually contemplated my outlandish idea. Could that work? Instantly, I dismissed the delusional thought with a shake of my tired and giddy brain. First of all, that thought was insanity, and second of all, I had a tour group waiting for me to bring them to baggage claim. Giving my head a good left to right shake, I tried to clear my brain and wondered if there was a chance I could slide past that so-called, “jolly flight crew line” without being noticed. THAT, was something I was NOTsure of. However, there was something I DEFINITELY WAS sure of, I would NOT stroll past this group dragging my leg behind me and looking like some red faced hysterical Hunchback of Notre Dame.
At this point, Silvia and I desperately tried to stop laughing, regain our composure, and prepare for the inevitable. After we straightened our posture, I lifted my head up, took a deep breath and tried to have a poised and confident appearance. Was I now prepared to meet each one of the polite, well-mannered and friendly crew?
Of course not! But, taking one last deep breath, I wiped tears off my face, pulled my shoulders back, then boldly walked toward the airline cheerleading squad. With a somewhat stern face, I extended my hand forward, shook hands with each one, thanked them for a safe flight, and listened to my crotch proudly announce “It’s 8:38, it’s 8:38, it’s 8:38!!!”
Silvia chuckled as she whispered, “The crew is looking all around with puzzled, confused faces,” then added, “They’re looking at the floor, at their legs, at each other, then uncomfortably at your crotch.”
Yes, they were wondering where this strange muffled time announcement came from.” Therefore, with my face still expressionless, I politely said good-bye to all nine-airline personnel, and pretended I heard absolutely nothing from my impertinent, impolite, and infuriating…“TALKING CROTCH WATCH.”