In part one of this series, I explained the mysterious and uncertain nature of macular degeneration. I laid the foundation of understanding for this and future blogs in this series. This blog will go through the thought processes that I use in life and some real life examples of their use. I have tried to group the processes that I use into categories so my thoughts are not all over the place like they often can be. The examples of how I live are endless and I will continue to give more examples throughout this series so you will gain a better understanding of my world.
The World is Standardized: Many aspects of our world are standardized and the general public may not realize some of this because they are able to see. For example, street intersections typically have curbs or curb cuts and these curbs are typically the same height while curb cuts have a series of grooves lined up parallel to each to create traction. When I come up on an intersection I expect to step down as I cross and up at the other side. I cannot see the curb but I can normally pick out changes in color. Typically, there are differing colors between the cement/as-fault of the street and that of the sidewalk so as I get close I guess on the location of the curb. In the same way, if there is a curb cut I cannot see the incline or decline but I notice black lines horizontally on the ground and then assume there is a curb cut.
The layout of buildings is also very standardized which allows for good guessing. Men’s restrooms are typically on the right and women’s on the left. To confirm I am correct, I normally walk up to the sign to see if these is a long blob of text or a short blob of text. Longer blobs mean “Women” and short blob is for “Men”. Blind people hate it when they try to get fancy and put “Gentlemen” or even worse some sort of picture. Drinking fountains are typically always in between the restrooms and trash cans are always by front door entrances. Those “Green” people make it difficult when they throw five bins out there for recycled items like paper, bottles, etc. In those cases I just put it in one of the bins and to waste management I say “I’m sorry”. There have also been occasions where I have attempted to throw my trash at the newspaper dispenser or even a fire extinguisher box thinking they were trash cans. These instances leave me even more uncertain about the world that I thought I had figured out.
Product Branding: Believe it or not I love product branding. As I mentioned, I can see color and everything is a blurry blob. The moving blobs are people and animals and the stationary blobs are objects. I am very observant to the color, shape of design of logos that brand a specific product or business. People always wonder how I go grocery shopping for example. I explain to them that the first time in a new store is always interesting and typically takes some extra time. Just as I mentioned above, there is a standard setup of grocery stores. Produce is always on the far right or far left of the store, dairy is in the back and dry/frozen goods in the middle. After I know the general layout I begin associating colors with brands. This means I could pretty much tell you the color of every cereal box brand. As I walk down the cereal aisle, I pass yellow blurs which are either Cheerios, Pops, Honey Comb or Honey Nut Chex. The blue blurs are Frosted Flakes, Quaker Squares, Crispix, Total, Craklin Oat Bran or Rice Krispies. This list goes on and on for each color. Also, I don’t have to see to know that the oatmeal, peanut butter and coffee are usually nearby. In my head, I do the same brand/color association for all other products on my list. When I am uncertain about an item I either ask for help or pick up the box and bring it right to my face with my super power 10X magnifying glass. Sometime even with the super magnifierI still can’t make out the label
In these cases, I look at the length of the blur and whether I can make out at least one or two letters. I take this knowledge to make a guess on what the label says based upon what the product is and the context. It’s really a great game!
There are many other situations that I use product branding. For example, I was with a friend in a location in California I had never been. It was a fairly high populated area and we were going to dinner. As I got out of the car, I looked across the street and I saw a yellow and white lit up sign overhead. On the corner just ahead of us was a blue lit up sign. I told my friend, “that’s a Subway and that’s a Chase bank right?” They responded, “Yes, how did you know? Can you read that?” I said, “No but I used the context and branding to guess.” Banks are very often on major street corners and Chase bank is the only bank that I know with an all blue logo. Subway is enormous chain and typically have little stores within cities. These signs could have easily been those of local family owned business and I would have been wrong, but at least it narrows down my options.
Context and Relating to Past Experiences
Many times I figure things out by relating my blurry surroundings to past experiences in these contexts. This also means that I relate many situations and locations with specific groups of people I may come into contact with in these contexts. Continuous filtering of past experiences and hundreds of quick educated guesses are going on in my head to figure out the situation. Whenever I enter a new place, in my head I ask myself, “what types of people and objects are normally in this context?” From there, my mind narrows down the endless possibilities of the world around me and the educated guessing begins. This method works pretty well until someone or something that in my mind shouldn’t be present appears. Here are a few examples of these situations.
Ex 1: I am getting ready to race at a local triathlon and someone comes up to me and says, “Hey Aaron, how are you doing? I haven’t seen you in forever!” I don’t recognize the voice and in my head I am thinking, “Hey, I haven’t seen you Ever (lol).” Immediately my mind is thinking of all the people from the sport of triathlon and fitness world that live in close proximity of the race. I just can’t think of who it is as they don’t come up as being among that group of people I associate with triathlons. My solution to solve the mystery is a great thing called “BS’ing). I begin to ask them very vague questions in the hopes they will spill the beans with the good clues on what we have in common. About 90% of the time this works amazing. Sometimes though I just can’t figure it out after exhausting all of my pointless and superficial questions. In these instances I just say, “I’m sorry, I am having a hard time recognizing you, who am I speaking to?” Many times the person ends up being someone that recently moved into town and has decided to do their first race or are supporting a friend of significant other.
Ex. 2: I am walking in home depot to get a few things. In my head I know that people in orange work there. Also, at stores normally the employees have carts or boxes and are stocking shelves. They are typically the ones on ladders getting things down for the customers. In a store like Home Depot I normally don’t even attempt to find things. Finding a pack of nails amongst hundreds of thousands of blurry blobs is not worth the trouble so I normally find one of the “orange coats”. There has been instances though that I have taken the past experiences and contexts to figure out who was a worker and it has failed me. Many times I have see a moving blob near what must be a cart stacked with boxes. Process of elimination tells me that this person works there but when I ask them, “Could you help me find these nails?” They say, “Sorry I don’t work here.”
As you can see, my life is a world of uncertainty. Its a big guessing game full of thousands of filtering processes. The better you are at the game, the better you can make others in society think that you see things when in reality you are just guessing. Certainty only begins to become reality when I do things that are routine and have experienced each aspect many times. Even then, certainty is not definite as our world is constantly changing and new objects are placed where they weren’t before and people decide to go new places and venture into new surroundings. All I can really say about my life is, “The first time is always interesting!!!”