Last week I met someone I knew from twitter from a long time in person. A lovely encounter (more on that eventually), and it’s just so brilliant when all the little details of meeting people go so smoothly.
Meeting people I had known via internet is far from a new thing for me, since I’ve been in internet (probably often way more than in the “real world”) for over twenty years. I’ve met people I’ve talked with online in a number of countries and occasions (perhaps more on some of those in delights in a future post), but there are some little details I probably do differently these days compared to how I used to do before or how others do it.
First of course there is the deciding on the place and time. Since I’ve never owned a car, and very rarely have been able to drive myself to where I’ve needed to go, this of course means figuring out where some place is and how to get there. In this case I was lucky, a pub we picked was easy to reach with my usual bus line. Apple Maps even provides the public transport options, so I was able to check what time I should leave where I was if I was using a bus, and then get the walking directions on my watch to get to the bus stop etc. When arrived at the correct bus stop, as it was not a bus stop I had used before, the next step was to figure where to go next. It’s difficult to figure which side street is which if I try to rely on sight alone, so for this step I need a clue which way I’m facing, and where on my relative locations is whatever place I’m trying to reach. It can feel dumb or vulnerable trying to reach a network or a map at a bus stop, but after a few minutes of trying, I had the correct direction, and could follow the directions of male UK siri on my headphones and watch, arriving perfectly on time.
The next step is when meeting someone I know, finding them. This can easily be awkward, as I’m one of those people that can see a picture of someone I know, and not be able to recognize them in person. I try to make less assumptions of others, so usually it’s easiest if I let the people know I’m there (“by the entrance”, “by the bar, corner seat” etc) and some cues of what I’m wearing. Even when wearing “boring” clothes, pick a few cues that should make it easier. So usually this means the color of my shoes or hat or glasses, or something about the shirt or purse or some other item. This is where I’m doing a fuzzy pause of thinking: do those with typical sight do this? Can you just have seen someone in photos or video and still be able to recognize them in person without further cues? Of course having a good familiarity with voice, or knowing if there are any other cues that would make it easier to find the person you’re looking for would work. (Like being 9 feet tall, or using a wheelchair or a cute service dog would be among the features that might just work for not needing additional cues, and so might having a skintone that was radically different from anyone else around – but don’t always count on that… I’ve mistaken people I know online so majorly as I can’t tell if someone is American or Chinese, male or female, black or white and so on)
He recognized me first and started it comfortably. (Now here a little tip: if you meet someone that doesn’t have so good or any sight, introduce yourself. “Hi X, I’m Y, from … someplaceyouknowmefrom”). We go in, I follow them. It’s dark inside, but I can follow right behind if I know which way and where the obstacles like people or tables are. It’s dark, but there’s a window behind them so I can sort of figure some details. I take off my shades, which is a huge sign of being comfortable around someone. We talk about accessibility (in “the real life”? Do get me started on that please, if you’re interested. Then just change the topic to something else when you’ve had enough), from how bad toilet design to a lovely kitchen that has braille in microwaves but which are placed so high a wheelchair user needs to ask help from a blind person to use the microwave (I giggled imagining that in my head), to all the AR and VR variations at SXSW to everything else. Talk about people we sort of both know (accessibility world can feel so small) like people so often do. And I got a chance to show my fancy Blackout Bands glasses. (I’ve got both kinds, I think they tried the Ninjas)
We walked a few blocks towards the capitol. I love it when people remember to warn about the obstacles (“three steps”, “to the right”) as most people forget about that. We passed a few frustrating crosswalks with no audio signal, walked towards the capitol. More on that later, let’s just say I’m terrified of video cameras and don’t always remember or figure the amount of things typical people can see. So I’m ruminating on the worries that if I’ll be on a video, people can see I don’t wear makeup (even if wearing shades), and that I’ll look and sound like the most nervous person ever. Let’s hope I can be edited quite a bit, and will have closed captions, so people will see those first…
I could also show some of the cool little things about using buses before we departed, as they accompanied me to the bus stop. Sometimes I can vaguely recognize the direction or corner I should head to, sometimes not so much. Then how to find bus stops, how they are marked, how to know which lines stop where, and how long until the next bus as well. I find my ways quite differently than most, wondering in a sort of visual snow or a fog. And it feels great when that’s seen as a cool thing instead of a problem to focus on.
Hopefully next year I’ll get a chance to show off the school and some other cool things around the parts of town I do stuff at. 🙂