A Scientific Explanation by an Unscientific Me

Here I would just like to try to give a “scientific” explanation to sighted people about what happens in a blindy’s brain when their stuff gets moved.

Picture this scenario:

It’s the early morning rushing-to-get-to-work-routine, and time to brush my hair. I go to the point where I know my brush is supposed to be, and lo and behold: it’s not there. A bit of blundering, a bit of searching, a lot of anger and a shout: “WHERE IS MY BRUSH?!!!) My mom coming and answering: “It’s over there,”

Now the elusive “over there” has been a mystery to blindies from the beginning. Read what another compatriot, Robert Kingett, wrote, and chuckle with me.

As I stood in line at the checkout of the River City Market, I asked the cashier what I considered a simple question: “Where are the napkins, please?”

Her response was hurried but sincere, “Over there.

Emerging from the light rail for the first time, I managed to catch the attention of a passer-by, “Please, sir, can you tell me where I can catch bus 10?”

A kind voice offered a pleasant response before disappearing into the cacophony of early afternoon, “You can catch it over there.”

So many things reside over there–napkins, bus stops, pencils, pens, clothing racks, department stores, and even my shoes! A never-ending supply of important and indispensable items and locales reside in this place shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

I stand in perplexed silence after learning that something is over there. It is a place I have never been and have no hope of finding on my own. My cane is quite skilled in finding chairs, stairs, elevators, and escalators and helping me cross streets and even finding the Diet Pepsi display at Food Town; however, when I try to find “over there,” my cane hits nothing. My cane hits all sorts of things in front of me, in back of me, to the left and right of me, but the one thing my cane and I just cannot find on our own is over there. We will not be going “over there” today. Over there has caused me a bit of vexation and a lot of confusion and on occasion has made my heart race.

I have discovered that “over there” can be a dangerous place. One day, while crossing a street, I heard a driver’s irritated voice shout warning of a truck bearing down on me from over there. I artfully dodged the oncoming vehicle and pulled my cane and me to the safety of the curb. Our hearts were both racing as we took a few moments to compose ourselves. Close encounters with over there can be frightening experiences.

Although many blind people have wondered about the exact location of “over there,” few have dared to venture forth in an actual exploration of that mysterious place. One day, while standing in line at the supermarket, I asked the clerk where I might find the aspirin. With a cheery smile in her voice, she informed me that the aspirin was located “over there. With a weary sigh, I decided that I would take the extra step that would unravel the mystery which had vexed my compatriots since the beginning of time.

Taking a deep breath and attempting to look nonchalant, I smiled at the clerk, “Where,” I asked, “is over there?” I imagined the girl’s shocked expression. I felt her exchanging condescending and concerned looks with her fellows in the store. The silence grew palpable as they mulled the possibility of allowing a blind person access to the forbidden land.

She had no choice; she would have to tell me how to find “over there.” I had won! Exhilaration swept through me as I waited in breathless anticipation. A victorious smile crept to my lips, my hand tightened on the handle of my cane; we would soon be going over there. The clerk’s voice dripped with resignation as she made her decision. “That way,” she said, pointing.

OK, so I’m digressing a bit. 🙂 So after I holler and after the “over there” reply, my mother shows me where it is. It turns out it was a few centimetres away, or just on a lower shelf, leaving me feeling utterly stupid.
Now here is my perhaps feeble scientific explanation of what happens in my brain:
I put an object down where I think it should be. My brain stores the location. When you try to find it, and it’s not there, the anger switch is turned on, the brain goes into “search and find” mode, but after a few seconds when it discovers the thing is not in the searchable radius (which seems to be very narrow), it somehow malfunctions, causing it to temporarily shut down.
I’ve noticed that this brain freeze can sometimes be modified. For example, we have a cleaner at work who just doesn’t get it. Teaching her to put things back after cleaning is like teaching a door-knob to bark.
So a new brain cycle was formed, namely the CWH (cleaner was here) cycle. After the cleaner was here, Brain stores that moment. When you can’t find an object, brain first looks for a CWH moment, and then, if such a moment is found, undertakes a full search, eliminating the search and freeze cycle it usually goes into.

Hope it makes sense, or at the very least … nonsense.

And then, my final word on the subject: Ah, the advantages of living alone – no brain malfunctions. 🙂

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