Everywhere you walk, you “get caned”—hit by several canes from all different directions. There are just so many people navigating their way around that it’s impossible to avoid. From the moment you emerge from your room to the time you reenter it, you get caned. There are dogs everywhere too. They are also getting caned at every turn, and surrounded by so many other dogs. I think they are more overwhelmed than the people. The hotel has set aside a place outside for people to relieve their guide dogs but I keep hearing that some of them, especially the ones that have never been to a convention before, are having some bladder issues.
One night I’m on a lower level, about to head upstairs when I see a guy yanking his guide dog around. “Find the escalator!” he’s screaming angrily at his dog. He’s actually standing right next to the escalator and the dog pulls him in its direction. He yanks it again. “Damn it, find the escalator!” he yells again, not realizing the dog is doing exactly what he’s asking. This goes on several times and then a hotel worker gently tries to direct him. He starts getting irate and my elevator arrives so I don’t know if he finds the escalator. I feel so bad for these dogs.
 The hotel is set up in a huge circle, which only complicates blind navigation. There are no gridlike features, no differently sized hallways, no real landmarks, just this huge circle with too many similar hallways originating at its center. People are placed strategically at different locations trying to marshal conference attendees in the right direction for each event. To this day, whenever I mention that my only national convention thus far was Detroit, the response always starts with, “Oh, the circular hotel…” I’ve since been to other blind conventions at more conventional hotels and the caning and dog trouble was not even in league with that at the circular hotel.
Here’s another excerpt from an essay called “Blind Conventions” (find the first excerpt here). This was written for a writing class, and we had just read the essays “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away From it All” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again” by David Foster Wallace, and the assignment was to describe an experience in detail and try to adopt a bit of DFW’s style. This was especially agreeable to me as I couldn’t get enough DFW.
- Reading Eyes and Faces
- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Writing as Time Travel
- My Face
- What Color is Your Eight?
- Blind woman, 36, kicked out of Subway restaurant ‘for having a GUIDE DOG’