I live above a pub and so I spend many evenings sat with people who are usually far drunker than I. On top of this, my grandparents own the pub so as a result I often end up pouring the pints. Every once in a while my visual impairment becomes the topic of conversation and the comments and queries I receive from the customers are usually bizarre.
Before continuing I want to clarify something. I honestly believe that none of these people were meaning to offend me. These questions are often fuelled by Dutch courage and laced with a smidgen of ignorance and so I usually answer honestly, but I can’t resist a little sarcasm ever once in a while.
Here are the most frequently asked questions I get whilst working behind a bar with a visual impairment:
- Do your eyes normally shake like that or are you allowed to drink on the job?
It’s a problem many people with Nystagmus have faced before. My wobbly-eyes mean that sometimes people assume I’m drunk (even if a drop of gin hasn’t passed my lips) but when I’m surrounded by alcohol their suspicions are strengthened. I’ve learnt over my time behind the bar that it’s easier just to shrug off that question. People don’t seem to believe me when I assure them I’m sober and trying to explain Nystagmus to someone who’s 8 bottles of DoomBar under the table can be tricky.
- How do you know when the pint glass is full?
This question makes me roll my eyes because I hear it so often! However I try and hold back any sense of bitterness in my voice when I reply. My normal answer to this is usually accompanied with a smirk: ‘I stop pouring when it’s overflowing’.
- So your Grandmother allows you behind the bar?
Of course she does! Why wouldn’t she? – enough said on that one.
- Do you want the exact change? I imagine counting money must be hard for you.
I am aware that if someone says this then they are probably trying to be helpful but they have no idea how irritating it is! Of course I can handle money! How else do you think I pay for things? I know that contactless cards are pretty convenient for people with visual impairments but cash really isn’t that hard to deal with. Coins are different shapes, sizes and textures and so I’ve learnt over time to recognize them by touch. I am perfectly capable of giving you your fifty pence change, don’t worry about it.
I suppose in a way I’m lucky because many people who drInk at the pub know my grandmother and by extension know that I’m Registered Blind but these four questions are still asked reasonably often. In a way, I’ve grown immune to them now but here’s a word of advise for anyone who may have to deal with ignorant people’s drunken, unexpected (and sometimes rather personal) questions.
You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone: Particularly not a drunk stranger in a pub. Getting into a full blown discussion about your visual impairment can be exhausting and unnecessary. Take everything with a pinch of salt and accept the fact that you can’t educate pork. Also, they probably won’t even remember it the next morning.