It wasn't fair, really - the parking lot had been empty, and it was pouring rain out. What were the odds that every handicapped space would become unavailable at 11:00 at night?! But when I went back out to my car, just a few minutes later, I saw a police officer putting a ticket on my windshield.
Two weeks later, I went to court. The ticket said that parking in a handicapped space was a misdemeanor! I hoped I was not in a lot of trouble, so I tried to dress nicely for court. I talked to my boyfriend, who assured me that I didn't need a lawyer.
I looked up, expecting to see the judge. Where was he? Something caught my eye, and I looked down - to see the judge wheel himself behind the bench in a wheelchair. Oh Crap.
A woman came over to me, and introduced herself to me as the village attorney.
"Miss Parker, this court is particularly sensitive to the special needs of the handicapped. The state recently revised the penalties for illegally parking in such a spot. You could easily end up spending a week in a state penitentiary, did you realize that?"
"No, I didnít mean for anything to be wrong - I just was in a hurry, and it was late at night, and.."
She cut me off "I'll offer you a deal. It's a quick plea-bargain, which you ought to think about. You can plead guilty, and I'll recommend that you take part in a disability awareness course."
"That doesn't sound too bad, I don't think."
"Be aware of one thing: If you accept, you have to live with a disability for a week, as part of the course."
That didn't sound terribly menacing - what could they do, make me sit in a wheelchair, or use crutches? The idea of a week in a prison didn't give me many alternatives - especially with a very strict-sounding judge!
"Okay, I think I can do that."
We sat down, until my name was called. I walked up to the Judge, as nervous as could be. "Your honor, the defendant has agreed to plead guilty in return for being assigned to a disability awareness course." Said the attorney.
"Is this acceptable to you, Ms. Parker?" Said the Judge, looking far taller, sitting behind the bench.
"Yes, your honor, it is." I managed to say, without stumbling over my words.
"Then this court sentences you to six months probation, after which the charge will be dismissed. During this six months you may not have any further violations of the handicapped parking code. Further, you will enroll in a one-week course at the city clinic and complete their disability awareness course." He finished, staring at me. "Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir, I do."
"Good. If you fail to complete the probation, I will immediately sentence you to a weekend in the county penitentiary. I don't think you would want that."
"No sir, thank you, sir"
I left the courtroom, and immediately went home to call the phone number the attorney had given me.
"Maryville clinic, may I help you?" answered a pleasant-sounding woman.
"Yes, I need to sign up for your disability awareness course. Do you have any openings?"
"We do, this week, in fact. Would that be good for you?"
"Yes, I think so. When should I be there?" I asked.
"How about tomorrow at 11:00 in the morning." She collected some more information from me - name, address, name of nearest friend or relative.
I quickly thought, and realized that I'd have to do some juggling, but I could arrange it. "I'll be there. Do I need to bring anything?"
"You'll need a check for $65 for the course, a copy of any unusual medical records from your doctor, and bus fare home, and that's all."
I laughed "I think I can handle that, but I don't need the bus fare, I can drive there."
"You might," laughed the woman, "but you won't be able to drive home, will you?"
"What do you mean?" Pictures of myself wearing a cast on my leg or something equally uncomfortable roamed through my head. There was a pause on the phone.
"Did they explain the nature of our program to you, Ms. Parker?"
"No, not really. I assumed I'd have to learn to get around in a wheelchair or something like that."
"That's not quite how it works. We serve visually impaired people here. Our program teaches people what it's like to live without sight."
"I don't understand. Am I going to have to wear a blindfold or something?" I asked, thinking that would be quite a relief - I could slip it off as soon as I left!
"No, no," she chuckled, "We used to do it like that, but it served no purpose - people simply took off the blindfold the minute they 'needed' to see something. No point in that! So now we use medication that causes temporary blindness. Much more effective, and no walking around with a silly-looking sleep mask on all day long!"
"Blind? You can't be serious, can you? You're going to make me blind?" This was impossible. I thought about calling the whole thing off - but then thought of the stern words of the Judge. I did not want to go back in front of him!
"It's not as bad as it sounds, dear, and you'll get used to it quickly. But do bring bus fare, it would be a long walk otherwise!"
"Well," I stammered, "what are you going to do? Is it going to hurt?"
"No, not a bit. A doctor will give you a quick exam, and then he'll put some drops in your eyes. A few minutes later, you'll be as blind as me, and you won't feel a thing."
"You're blind?" I managed to ask.
"Yes, dear, and don't worry about a thing. We'll 'keep an eye' on you, okay?"
"Oh. Yes, okay, I'll see you tomorrow."
"No, you won't see me, but we'll get to meet anyway. Nice talking to you, Ms. Parker."
I managed to say goodbye, and hung up the phone, feeling pale and shocked. This couldn't be!
The morning came, and I got up early. It took well over an hour to get to the clinic via bus, and there was a good walk just to get to the bus stop from my house. The woman from the clinic had said that they would have someone take me home, but it would be one of their teachers, who was blind.
At the clinic, I signed in and was told to take a seat. "Miss Parker?" called a woman, standing inside the doorway to the office. "That's me." I got up and walked towards her. I was given a quick eye exam, and a doctor looked inside my eyes to see if there were any problems. I was told that Eric, the teacher, would be able to meet me a few minutes after my "treatment".
The nurse led me into a small office, with a chair, and the usual complicated-looking gear that fills an eye doctor's office. "Have a seat, and make yourself comfortable. Doctor Albertson will be with you in a moment."
I took a seat - the one I was supposed to, I supposed. I thought about picking up a magazine and reading it - realizing that I would not be able to read anything for a week! I was startled out of my thoughts by a knock at the door, after which a youngish man in a lab coat entered.
"Ms. Parker, I'm Doctor Albertson, I'll be taking care of you this morning."
"Any history of glaucoma, Ms. Parker?"
"Any eye problems that you haven't listed on this chart?"
"Any history of high blood pressure?"
"Any immediate relatives with any of these problems?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
"All right, then. We can get started. I'm going to administer a medication into your eyes which is absorbed by the cornea, and passed on to the optic nerve in the back. It has the effect of causing the nerve to become 'numb', if you will. Your eyes will continue to function and process visual information, but it will not be transmitted to your brain. Do you have any questions?"
"How long will this last?"
"Typically, it lasts anywhere from seven to ten days. The optic nerve is one of the most stable parts of the body, which explains why it is so slow to metabolize the medication."
"Will I be able to see anything?"
"You might occasionally see a flash of light - which will likely not be light hitting your eyes, but just some confusion at the optic nerve"
I could see he was preparing something, which I assumed was the medicine he was going to put in my eyes.
"Doctor, what if there's an emergency? What if I need to see, right away?"
"I'm sorry. There's no reversing this treatment - in a few minutes, you're going to lose all your sight - and you will not see anything for a week or more."
A nurse entered the room. She stood behind me, and lowered the back of the chair, reclining it slightly. She put on a pair of rubber gloves, and leaned close to my head. "Just relax, this won't hurt a bit." She said. One of her hands rested gently against my head, the other against my forehead. She used two fingers to carefully pull my eyelids upwards. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the doctor walking towards me.
"All right, then, this is all there is to it." He said. In one hand he held an eye dropper, in the other hand a small vial of clear fliud.
I watched as the drops were squeezed out into my eyes. They stung just a little, and made a tingling sensation as my eye got used to them.
The nurse released my eyelids and helped me sit up. "It'll be a couple of minutes while the drops take effect. I'd suggest you don't get up now - just spend the next couple of minutes resting right there. The nurse will stay with you. Good day." Said the doctor, already leaving to take care of someone else.
She stayed in the room with me, and held my hand as the drops took effect.
It was happening already - my vision began to dim! The contrast between light and dark was becoming very weak.
"Does it work this quickly?" I asked the nurse, knowing the answer already.
"Yes, it's pretty quick-acting," she said, by which time I could no longer see.
To be continued.