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A guide to guiding

October 6, 2013

Guiding is a funny thing – or rather, being guided is a somewhat strange experience. One has to put trust in another person and trust them not to walk you into anything, trip you up or down anything or look/feel stupid. Thankfully I very rarely have to be guided because I have a big black Labrador who is, according to his paperwork a guide dog. The occasions I don’t have him are mostly when I’m with my wife’s mother, sister, brother or father, and thankfully these people have a PhD in the Zen art of guiding without guiding – that is to say, guiding a blind person without drawing much attention to it, whilst at the same time doing it smoothly, comfortably and incident free. The other time I need guiding is at my rowing club because I don’t take Oliver with me. This throws up a variety of interesting and amusing problems.

There is an array of people at my club, mostly all intelligent, kind and helpful sorts who always do their best to help. But obviously the vast majority of them have never come across a blind person, let alone guided one. This makes for some amusing experiences and guiding techniques.

On the roll call of mayhem we have:

The hand hold

Yep, this is really disconcerting especially from a massive rower. I have found myself in a paw, being gently and seemingly completely casually and devoid of self consciousness being walked towards the water. On this occasion there are always two options. To gently extricate a hand and grab an elbow, or just go with it, trying to ignore the looks you know you are getting. Ironically, it is just as uncomfortable when a woman holds your hand… maybe it is too much like a mother and child type of transaction.

The thrust from behind

This is always a good one, and nearly always perpetrated by men. This happens when a person walks behind you and steers you by means of his hands on your shoulders. This always feels weird as you are completely unable to control the situation. Instead of walking side-by-side with a discreet contact between elbow and fingers, you are literally a human torpedo or shopping trolley depending on the level of hazards in the immediate vicinity.

Elbow hold

This is the least painful of the guiding techniques. It involves your hand buried in the crook of their elbow as they march you away. It can feel as though you’re being arrested as it is the hardest hold to discreetly get out of. People do this because it feels secure and safe. They do this out of love and compassion, not because they secretly want to ram you into a disused corner of the boat house and do unspeakable things with lycra.

The breast and chest hold

This is by far the most embarrassing and erotic of the amateur guiding techniques and is almost always done by women with sports boobs. They engage you with the crook of the elbow hold but feed your hand through and grab your hand with their other hand, resting your hand either on, or just below their breasts. It’s nearly an arm lock but not quite. This happened to me just yesterday – but the problem was, we were just standing and not actually moving. I gave it as long as was decent before gently disengaging myself from her very beguiling chest.

I’m big enough, old enough and ugly enough to be assertive nowadays, and most of the time I simply say, “May I just take your right elbow.” And mostly this is fine. But sometimes the above happens and people decide to guide in their own way, be it so they feel more secure, or they think I may feel more secure, the motives are mostly always utterly innocent and devoid of power games.Besides a sensation of awkwardness, the odd guiding techniques outlined above, and others I haven’t mentioned are totally harmless. But, I can’t help but feel a bit gay or a bit hot under the collar in certain situations.

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One Comment
  1. amybovai permalink

    What an interesting article, BJ! I can relate to some of the things you are saying since I’m vision-impaired and now that I use a cane, people try to steer or guide me often in spite of my cane. The worst is holding my wrists, though. A friend and I were just talking how we felt “handcuffed.” I’m still trying to get people to simply let me take their arm as I was taught, if I need help. Thanks for this informative, yet humorous take on this issue!

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