The Electric Grapevine | At First Sight | 12.20.09

Nik Green
By Nik Green
December 20th, 2009

Vancouver’s ever expanding Translink system was the scene of a scenario that would have Seinfeld taking out a notepad recently although my opinion on the exchange is yet to be determined. A seemingly vision impaired man sitting across from me on the Seabus, at first, seemed to be just that, a blind man enjoying a ride across the inlet.

As the trip progressed, he insisted on conversing and made some rather funny self-deprecating jokes and a few about the Toronto Maple Leafs which were far better received by me than they were when I repeated them later that day to my Fort Frances-born friend.

“Why doesn’t Mississauga have a hockey team? Because then Toronto would want one too.”

As we progressed I noticed that this man had checked out the remnants of his sandwich by looking at it. OK, I figured maybe he had limited visibility. Not so, says the man who insists he merely can tell if it is night or day. Maybe it was just a habit from days when his vision was in full working order, was my next thought. A few more subtle tips such as knowing exactly where to walk with little use of the cane sort of made me wonder but only for a fleeting moment.

I left the Seabus, contemplated my destination in North Vancouver and was guided to the appropriate bus where I would meet my impaired friend again. The notion that all may not be what it seems actually had me reluctant to walk past him on the bus and sit somewhere I wouldn’t have to continue the NHL conversation. It wasn’t to be rude, just simply that I don’t do hockey. Regardless, guilt and fear of him ‘seeing’ me pass by him had me seated next to him in the only available seat.

He recognizes me immediately and the journey continues. The hints then start to become less and less subtle and venture farther into mocking my kindness. His accurate and articulate description of the new buildings in the area rivaled those of my architect friends. At one stage I pointed down the road to clear up which bus station he was referring to, and he actually corrected my arm gesture by a small degree. Well, thank you, Magellan.

Odd for sure, but maybe he simply heard the bus driver announce the stops and knew exactly where we were. That may have explained it right up until the point he inexplicably knew that I was navigating Google Maps on my cell phone. My patience started to wither and I began compiling a list of tags I would search for on YouTube to see this exchange from a hidden camera point of view. The breaking point came when he took his finger and precisely traced the route I should be taking on this tiny 200 pixel LCD screen just to make sure I reach my destination. How thoughtful.

I used all my power to not bust out laughing because, well that is what manners would have us do. I must be mistaken in some way. There is no way this man can be feigning blindness. Or is there? Either way it’s amazing how far this guy pushed this gimmick without me snapping. With adjacent passengers busting a gut silently (you’re being played to if you think not making a sound matters,) I tolerate the increasing absurdity that is my new friend, I start to just play along, fully expecting the pay off to be a sob story and request for money. It never comes.

That was where the Seinfeldian similarity ended because this man didn’t leave me with nicely tied up loose ends dripping with irony. He simply left me there with the remaining passengers smiling at me. Maybe that was his contribution; he put smiles on the faces of a busload of rush hour commuters in torrential downpour.


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