Making some noise about “The silent but deadly!”

Today, as usual, imran and I caught the bus for Work. It arrived a little after 6:00. Many times, we can hear the beeping noise (as many industrial vehicles) make when backing up. Lately, we hear nothing as the bus approaches. But, It is winter and the mantra “Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow!” has been chanted by almost everyone from those who wanted a white Christmas to those wanting to experience a respite from school or work to those who want to make a few extra bucks by overcharging an elderly couple to shovel their driveway. Hey, I confess that in my desire to interject the experience of snowball fights, cocoa and snuggling[Where’s the fireplace when you need it?] into my blossoming marriage, I have been known to belt out the all-too-familiar holiday favorite sometimes on an hourly basis. However, transformation is afoot. I have joined the less than 30% of blind people who call themselves “Employed.” Adorning the label and assuming the accompanying responsibilities also means that I am forced to reevaluate my perspective, as well as my willingness to embrace and dare I admit “encourage” such climental occurrences.
blind travelers everywhere are aware of the challenges that snow provides. {if ever I have someone help me with this blog, I will insert a blind person traveling in lots of snow].
I am not saying that blind people can’t or don’t travel well in snow. They certainly can and do. But, they adapt to overcome such challenges as:
1. One of the most annoying difficulties lay right on the ground. There are Blankets of snow that cover sidewalks and make it difficult to distinguish differences between ground surfaces such as pavement, grass, gravel and that manhole that serves as a landmark, or those truncated domes that are present at street corners. We can no longer use these textural changes identified by our feet to give us clues about where we are. Not all, but many blind people have difficulty walking in a straight line. I have my own theory about this one. I think that it has to do with not being able to find our focal point. But, I have not discussed my theory with a certified mobility instructor and have no research to substantiate my claim. Whatever the reason, it is doubly challenging to keep a straight line when you have very few clues from the ground that you are walking on.
2. Many times snow plows and other snow moving equipment relocate the snow from the street to the curbside. Often these mounds of snow cover the indication of the curb. Thus, we have to navigate around the snowdrift at each curb side and through any blockage at the corner walk. . Sometimes, those cane travelers have to attempt to use their cane to clear a path in the snow before moving forward. Many times, guide dogs see these snow banks as obstacles and attempt to guide the blind person around the snow. Yet, sometimes, the best course of action is to plow straight through the snow bank.
3. It amazes me that no matter how much snow falls to the ground, you can barely hear its descent. “White noise,” has a whole new concept when talking about snow. It sounds like you are walking on cotton. Sometimes, it crunches a bit, but it feels as if some of that cotton has been stuffed in your ears and you can only hear the snow. Everything feels … and sounds muted in the snow. It is difficult to hear echoes, your cane tapping on the many ground surfaces and sometimes, you have to strain to hear the traffic. We blind people use the sounds of parallel and perpendicular traffic to A. determine when it is safe to cross the street and B. help guide us on a straight course. “Friends, countrymen, lend me your ear…”

***Enter the silent, but deadly hybrid!
[insert image of hybrid car with a poison sticker looming over the top].
There have been many documented (and many more that have yet to achieve such a status) stories of accidents due to these sneaky vehicles. Some people are hosts or carriers (one who possesses the hybrid by surrendering to their materialist tendencies and/or yielding to their addiction of prestige) and there are others who become unwilling victims of the hybrid. Sometimes, someone is putting groceries into their trunks or waiting at a traffic light and without warning, is confronted with the reality that they have experienced an injury by a hybrid. To avoid the risk of contact, one should stay away from the infamous parking lot. This is one of the places that a hybrid can do the most damage. While a parking lot seems harmless and quite conducive to “on the go socializing,”, I feel that it is my civic duty to warn you of the dangers that lurk just out of earshot. hybrid is most dangerous in the stages directly before and after acceleration. It is easiest to detect when it is most active. during this stage, it can be discovered and the proper precautions can be taken. But, between stages of acceleration, it lays dormant and auditorially unidentifiable, which is frequently During the time a host or a carrier that is at a stoplight or navigating a parking situation. In these times, others aren’t aware that a host possesses a hybrid. Thus, the hybrid surges forward and makes a sneak attack on others.
Many have suggested that we should abandon the activity of walking. While once seen as a healthy exercise, research has shown that the life risks might just outweigh the health benefits. For blind people, however, disengaging in such an activity would have devastating economic, social and emotional consequences. The fear of coming in contact with a hybrid would relegate the blind person to exclusion from employment, bill paying, shopping, their spiritual development, banking, maintaining familial bonds and socializing. Certainly some of these things can be performed via telephone or internet. However, hybrid hysteria (some of which is warranted) would exile the blind to become secluded prisoners within their own four walls.
Yet, Hybrids are spreading across the US due to alluring packaging and competent advertising. Car manufacturers exploit the unhealthy prestige addictions of the wealthy by masking the harm done by the hybrid and marketing it as a much needed, environmentally conscious status symbol for the elite class. Most often, the one who possesses the hybrid is unlikely to feel the damaging effects. It is similar to being exposed to TB or being a carrier of a recessive gene of a disease. In the case of Tuberculosis, the one who has been exposed (but has not actually had the disease), is immune to the damage it can cause. In this case, the person who has enough finances to purchase the hybrid in its pretty packaging and loaded with beneficial bells and whistles also becomes a “carrier” or purchases his immunity to the harm that it can do.
Many will remember Senator John Kerry as an embarrassment to the democratic party and a failure. Have no fear, John Kerry, your legacy has been redeemed by the one act of giving your support to the Pedestrian safety Enhancement act of 2010. And, before you think that Kerry had an ulterior motive of “just wanting to stick it to automobile manufacturers,” let it be known that Senator Kerry, himself, is immune to the damage of the hybrid. Apparently, he sees no conflict of interest and I don’t feel compelled to be his beacon. I am bursting with gratitude to learn that his predilection for materialism and prestige has not effected his commitment to social justice.
So, how does this “Pedestrian Safety Enhancement act) effect the common people? Basically, his bill mandates that there be noise generated devices on all electric vehicles, hybrids, and other silent-running vehicles. In this way, the car manufacturers will be removing the Hybrid’s venom and renders the hybrid harmless to all, but one’s pocketbook.
Blind organizations such as the national Federation of the Blind(NFB) has been instrumental in setting a good example by making lots of noise to congress in the hopes that the hybrids will soon follow suit. The strategy of sound worked. The “Voice of the Blind,” will be remembered through the “sound of the hybrid.” “To all who have an ear, let him hear…”

Lest we feel that the Government has been left out of this newest development, Ray LaHood, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, will assume the arduous and most likely long suffering task of developing a range of safety standards for noise reduced vehicles. Such standards will include: ” minimum level of
sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind
and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect
a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating at or below the
cross-over speed,” and the tone, volume, and speed at which
the noise-making pedestrian safety systems would be most effective. Hmmm, I think that a panel of “pedestrians,” themselves, would be a good advisory board to the DOT. Might I suggest that there should be some blind individuals on the board.
I wonder if each company will decide on their own tone. That might be interesting. In this way, we can detect the model, make and manufacturer of a car just by its sound. Nissan, either out of an empathetic conscious or a looming suspicion that the bill would pass, has outfitted the new “Leaf” with a noise generator installed. While, rumor has it that Chevrolet is developing a similar system for its hybrid “Volt.”
If I still worked at the animal shelter, I would name all stray dogs and cats Nissan cars, in tribute to this proactive manufacturer.
Those of you who are considering a hybrid should have no fear. “quickly” is not a word that is recognized by government agencies. And, are you now wondering if you will be paying even more for that environmentally superior vehicle? My guess is “yes.” Take heart, though, it is less likely that you will have to pay court costs and damages.
I shout a “WOOHOO” into the snowy silence and know that Imran and I both value John Kerry’s efforts to keep America safe much more than the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration. .


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2 Responses to “Making some noise about “The silent but deadly!””

  1. Sara Says:

    This definitely made me smile a few times. I agree that there are very real dangers associated with not being able to hear cars. As a kid, we walked on a lot of country roads, with Appalachian foothill twists and turns. We had to hear the car quite a ways away in order to get off the road and stay safe, because cars would (legally and reasonably) come around a curve at 45-55mph and have maybe a few hundred yards to see us, react, check for oncoming traffic (keep in mind, there may be another turn just ahead that could be hiding an oncoming car), etc. I don’t know that the rural Appalachian foothills is really a high-target spot for hybrid cars (smile), but I could see it being a serious safety hazard for children everywhere.
    We’re all for being environmentally conscious (after all, that’s part of why we’re veg), but we’ve seen some documentaries and websites that make us skeptical of whether hybrids are actually any better than good, high-mileage gassers. With the “green” fad, it’s so hard to tell who’s in earnest and who’s hocking snake oil. Great topic!

    • jamily5 Says:

      Sara, that is a good point and you are right. I use to live in te country and country roads everywhere are barely two laned, dusty, curvey and you never know what is in front of you. Snow and ice ensures that there are accidents. But, bring in the hybrid issue and I am sure that it will increase.

      Yes, I am usually quite environmentally conscious, but at what price? Thanks for the comment.

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