The Kindness of Strangers

Okay, it’s past 2:30AM and I just said I wasn’t going to blog right now, but CrunchityFrog’s prompt for today (well, yesterday) has me thinking. This is supposed to be a daily prompt thing, so I might join in more often. Anyway, the prompt is to write about the kindness of strangers.

I’ve probably written many times already about overbearing, intrusive strangers. Particularly when I was a teen, I didn’t realize that my autistic behavior (of which I was unaware that it was autistic) combined with my blindness often caused people concern. I am more appreciative of people’s attempts, even awkward ones, to help now. That probably changed on the evening of November 2, 2007.

Okay, I’ve shared the story of my mental crisis probably more often than anyone cares to know. Today I’d like to focus on the kindness of the people who helped me stay alive and safe.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I was in a suicidal crisis that evening. I had left the training home I was a former resident of and had hoped to find safety in, because I was told the staff had no responsibility for me and I was to leave.

I took the bus to the city’s train station, talking into my former care coordinator’s voicemail. I told her I was going to take my life that night. I was completely unaware that people could hear me until a woman across the aisle from me started to talk to me. She told me that the bus driver had heard me, which initially only caused greater panic. She kept saying over and over again that he was getting help for me. (“Help”, of course, came in the form of the police, as is customary here in the Netherlands if someone’s safety is in question.) I was in utter shock, constantly crying and very overwhelmed. I am forever grateful for this woman’s kindness. And of course for the bus driver’s. It most likely, after all, wasn’t within his duty to report his concerns to the police.

Looking back, I realize I rightfully worried random people on the streets many times before and they were kind enough to help. Even if “help” meant to call the police. My parents often felt that people were just stupid, assuming that a blind person shouldn’t be traveling independently. Some were, indeed, but in some cases my parents were stupid, assuming that I was just blind.

My Encounters With the Police

When I wrote my Share Your World post last Monday, I said I would write more about my encounters with the police. Now that I keep switching between a lot of seemingly meaningful activities and not sticking to one long enough to actually be useful, I thought I’d write this post.

My first encounters with the police, in 2000 or 2001, were for the “crime” of being or appearing lost. I would often go to the grocery store on my own to get candy, even though I didn’t really know my way there. That is, I had been taught, but being that I not only am blind but have the worst sense of direction, I couldn’t seem to get it right. So I often got lost and then people would see me wander aimlessly, sometimes crying in frustration, and they’d call the police. My parents thought the police were stupid.

One time, in 2004, the police threatened to arrest me “for support” if I didn’t go in their van with them. This was my worst encounter with the police, because not only was their use of force excessive (they physically pushed me into the van), but I hadn’t actually been lost.

Once I’d moved into independent living in Nijmegen in 2007, I got involved with the police several times for wandering. They’d take me to the police station, sometimes calling my support staff and other times the mental health crisis service. I was deemed “not crazy enough” for the crisis service to even assess me.

I have probably shared the story of my mental crisis in November of 2007 before. In fact, I know I have, maybe just not on this blog. This involved me threatening suicide while riding a bus. The police were called by the driver and took me to the police station. What I may not have shared, is that I got removed from the train station by the police earlier that day, for the reason that I appeared (and was) confused.

Now that I live with my husband, I sometimes fear police involvement when I wander off. However, this village is so tiny there isn’t any police on the streets anywhere.

Overall, my experiences with the police have been okay, other than the time in 2004 I was threatened with arrest and the time I was removed from the train station. The police in my parents’ city had a good amount of information on me on file, which I’m not even sure they’re allowed to anymore due to GDPR. Now, however, many mentally ill people carry a “crisis card” in their purses with basic information about them, their diagnosis, emergency contacts and what first responders should and shouldn’t do. I have yet to get myself such a crisis card. I will when I’m in supported housing.

Share Your World (July 29, 2019)

Today, I’m joining in with Share Your World. I loved today’s questions. Here are they and my answers.

1. Is it wrong to sell store-bought pastries at a bake sale?
No. It’s a little unauthentic, but it’s not morally wrong. In fact, with the licensing that’s required to sell food (or cosmetics), it may be wiser. I know this from the time I made handmade soaps for my staff and fellow patients in the psych hospital. They wanted to give me a small amount of money for it and I didn’t object, but I did make it clear that I didn’t have a license. When my staff sold a traditional new year’s treat in large quantities at my ward, the manager did make sure he had a license.

2. Have you ever interacted with the police?
Lots of times, mostly for my own safety when I was in a mental crisis. I have however also been in contact with the police for the mere crime of being (or appearing) lost. I will soon write a post on this topic.

3. What will you remember most about this past year?
So far, the most memorable moment of 2019 was my being approved for long-term care.

4. Is it better to have fungus on your toes, your tongue, or your pizza?
LOL. Since a pizza with mushrooms on it is called fungi at least here, I prefer that. Not that I like this pizza, but it’s much better than having a toe fungus at least. I am so happy my toe fungus was finally (mostly) eradicated after many years of suffering when I got oral medication for it last year. I have no experience with a tongue fungus and I’d like to keep it that way.

5. What is one slang word that makes your skin crawl?
I don’t know much about slang, but ableist slurs definitely make me angry. I’ll go with “lame” for now.