So if you’re honored enough to be a VIP (visually-impaired person), you may have noticed that there are certain tasks and situations that you don’t anticipate being difficult visually but end up being ridiculously challenging.  Many times I’ve had friends or family members tell me that they’re not sure when to step in and help me when we’re walking places together and that they hope I’ll speak up if I need help.  And truthfully, I don’t always know when to ask for help.  There are times when I seem to be walking along just fine, when all of a sudden– SMACK– some tree branch or step pops out of literally nowhere (yes I know; “literally nowhere” lurks somewhere in my missing peripheral fields!)   But then there are also those definite moments where I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I need help.  One of those occurred recently while having a garage sale.This garage sale definitely started out as one of those “normal” things I thought I’d be okay doing visually.  I was able to set items on a table and price them just fine.  But when customers began showing up, things got a little nutty.  Having not really hosted my own garage sale before, I had no idea that there are “professional garage salers” out on Thursday mornings.  Early.  Very early.

We put our sign and flag banner out at 8am (our neighbors were all doing sales, so we had nifty signs and excellent web advertising!), and as soon as the signs were up, rattley pick-up trucks started showing up by the dozens.  I didn’t even have time to put all of our stuff out on the driveway before there were literally 20 people inside my garage, rummaging through all of my family’s crap– er, I mean treasures.

People started holding things up, “How much is this?”, “What do you use this for?”, “Would you accept $2 for this?”, and, “What IS this?”  This would probably be slightly stressful for a person who could actually SEE what items they were holding up, but because they were holding them up at varying spots in the garage and at a rapid pace, my eyes just couldn’t track what items people were asking about, so I began to panic inside (okay, fine, it was pretty obvious I was panicking on the outside too– I think the sweat and swear words I mumbled under my breath might have possibly given it away).

My husband, Ben, was supposed to be helping but had to run in to work for something last-minute, so my father, who was visiting, was trying to help me.  “Joy, this man over here wants to know how much you want for your speakers.”  Since the speakers were in a dimly-lit part of the garage, I couldn’t see them but I remembered that Ben had said he wanted to sell our stereo speakers for $30.  So just to make sure, I called my husband to verify the price.  The man seemed very eager to buy the speakers after I told him the price and then started hunting around the garage for other things to buy, though he ventured into the “not-for-sale” side of the garage (not clearly marked, of course, we’re total garage-sale amateurs!) and held something else up.  “What about this amp?”  I knew immediately that wasn’t for sale and told him so, and as I was saying it, I got this nervous feeling about the speakers he was buying.  But I brushed aside the feeling, remembering that he had found them on the “sell” side of the garage and that I had verified the purchase with my husband.  I then continued to somehow manage the tirade of people with my dad’s help until Ben returned.

Upon his return, he noticed that the stereo speakers he thought I had sold were still in the family room, hooked up to the stereo.  He then realized that the speakers I had sold must have been his professional stage speakers that he uses when he plays concerts, worth about $200 apiece.  I’m not exactly sure what specific words we exchanged at that point, but I must have let out a scream or something because our neighbor hurried over in his “wife beater” tank top, ready to go after whatever “punk” stole something.

After assuring the neighbor that we were not robbed, we got over the initial horror and continued our garage sale.  With both Ben and my dad helping now, it actually began to run smoothly.   And Ben then ended up finding his professional speakers in the basement and realized I had just sold 2 of his speaker monitors- only an $160 mistake!

But then people began to buy larger items, including some furniture in the basement, so both my dad and Ben needed to help lift items.  I found myself alone with a bunch of eager shoppers again, waving more items at me and handing me money that I sometimes didn’t see.

How should a VIP handle this?  I found myself completely perplexed– should I just say “sorry, please just hand me the item to look at because I’m visually impaired.”?  Or would that just be inviting some dishonest person to pull a fast one on me, thinking I wouldn’t notice a missing item or fake money?  To make maters worse, a lady in the neighborhood e-mailed everyone, saying that some people were reporting receiving counterfeit $20 bills.  She recommended that we not accept any bills $20 or higher.  I had already (naively) accepted an $100 bill and had barely looked at it when the customer handed it to me, much less inspected it!  (Fortunately, they accepted it at the store, so hopefully it was real!  If not, at least it was at the evil Walmart).

I remember my specific breaking point during the shopping frenzy– the point where I knew I really couldn’t stay out there, running it by myself even for 5 minutes.  This woman said, “How much for this?”  I asked, “for what?”, hoping she’d just say what it was to give me a clue since she was across the driveway and I was collecting money from another customer at the time.  “For this doll.”  I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about and didn’t remember putting out any dolls to sell.  Thinking of the speaker, I started to worry that maybe one of my daughters’ favorite toys ended up int the garage or something.  I had no idea what to do.

I wish that I was comfortable enough with my vision loss to be upfront with strangers about it, and maybe someday soon I will be, but at this point I’m still working at it.  And yes, my discomfort with RP quite possibly cost me $160 in mistakenly-sold speakers.  And while that mistake didn’t give me the courage to tell the woman pointing to the doll that I had no clue what doll she was referring to, it did scare me enough to tell her, “Hold on one minute– that’s my husband’s– I’ll have him come outside to handle that to make sure he gets the price he wants for it.” (considering it ended up being this funny, decorative 4th-of-July doll, the woman was probably completely weirded out that it belonged to him, and in hindsight, it would have been less embarrassing to just tell her I couldn’t see what she was pointing to!)