I am blind and use a cane to navigate my world. My apartment building’s lobby has lots of doors to run in and out of, lots of echoing tile to get to those doors and plenty of angles and corners for sound to bounce around. And there’s a radio station softly playing pop music, perhaps from the ceiling. There are a million surprises and distractions.
Two years ago, the manager decided on poinsettias for Christmas decorations. One was placed on the floor against the wall right at the corner that leads to the mailboxes. I came tapping along, shore-lining that wall and almost knocked over this “thing.” I knelt down and found the plant. And yes, it was a real poinsettia.
I couldn’t believe anyone would put a plant right in the walkway to the mailboxes. I was sure someone would move it. I was sure someone using a walker or mobility cane would complain.
In fact, the renting agent said the plant was exactly where they wanted it. So I moved it away from the corner. It got moved back. The security guard moved it and explained its potential danger. It got moved back.
I began referring to getting the mail as “going down to knock over a plant.” I came very close often. I did knock it over, perhaps twice. I am the only totally blind person in the building.
Finally, after a distraction by the weather forecast playing on the radio station, I picked up the poor plant and went to the building manager. I finally convinced him to move it.
About two weeks before Christmas, it was put in a window alcove. I heard it looked much better there.
The management changed last year. In November, the first poinsettia appeared in that exact corner. This time, the manager saw me find it with the cane and decided, without my prodding, to move it. I thanked him.
But two weeks later, the cane hit another not-wall sound. Another poinsettia, taller and, I thought, artificial (a small step toward reason).
I always use the same path to get mail. Everyone hears and sees me coming. (And you know they watch.) I had no idea why the poinsettia looked good there. I would remember it perhaps 80 percent of the time, but that’s not the statistic that counts.
This was the third poinsettia. I thought about writing this piece the first time the real one showed up. I convinced myself not to write it the second time. But a third time?
One December morning, I talked to the housekeeper who was cleaning the back door window while I waited for a ride. I asked if the poinsettias were real. She assured me they were not. I told her about my predicament. She laughed.
“I know a place where it would look much better. I’ll take care of it.” And it disappeared. Permanently this time.
I’ll have to ask Miriam where the perfect poinsettia placement was, just in case I need to remind someone this year. Are we taking bets?