Saturday, May 3, 2014

Blind Drunk

The relationship between alcohol and the visually-impaired, in my experience, is a complicated one. Before I started using a white cane to alert people to my sight issue, there was always the risk that my stumbling, tripping up and bumping into people would be mistaken for the effects of one too many drinks. Of course, there were occasions when this was indeed the case, but more often it was the case that drinking tends to be done in dark, noisy, crowded places where poor sight is something of a hindrance. “Sorry for spilling your pint, good man, but I have a rare genetic eye condition which restricts my vision in low lighting and has unfortunately resulted in this mishap” tends not to defuse the situation. I found it a lot easier to use a symbol cane. Even if it doesn’t save me from a thumping I can at least use it to poke the ignorant bastard in the eye. See how he likes it.

Of course, this type of incident is not the only risk associated with the VI on a night out. Scientific studies have shown a statistical correlation between having a tipple and a topple. One for the road can easily lead to wandering into the road. And as for cocktails, let’s just not go there.

However, I’m sure many Vis will agree that a few drinks can have hugely beneficial effects when it comes to getting around. It’s not that it improves sight (mind you, what a marvellous treatment that would be), it’s more that the relaxing effect of the drink reduces the tension associated with not being able to see what you are doing – the anxiety of waiting to bump into something or someone, and this often leads to a much more enjoyable walk home from the pub than the journey there. Even if you do come a cropper on the way back, the analgesic effect of the booze means that it doesn’t hurt as much anyway, and, if enough medicine has been consumed, is more likely to result in raucous and quite inappropriate laughter rather than screams of pain.

If this sounds a little irresponsible from a health, safety and wellbeing perspective, I have noticed that singing or humming a nice song whilst walking has a similar soporific effect. I wonder if it is a similar neurological effect to that enjoyed by people with a stammer, who find it easier to sing, or who can talk more fluently when music is played to them.

Of course, the danger in singing your way down the street is that passers-by conclude that you have been on the drink again.  Mind you, if you are singing into the end of your cane, or dancing seductively around it, they may well have a point.


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