In class last Thursday, I spent a few minutes talking about myself–nothing new. A student had folded up his quiz into a paper airplane and threw it at me. Don’t be shocked. I try to promote a comfortable atmosphere in my classes so my students feel relaxed and in a playful mood. I believe that it encourages a better learning environment. But when this student threw his quiz at me, I told him not to do it again, because I would never be able to catch it. I have no depth perception because of a scar in my right eye–I think I’ve mentioned this before… Anyway, if you’re the eccentric sort–or empathetic, take your pick–and you wear contacts, take out your right contact only and try to function for an hour or so. You might get an idea of how I live my life every minute of every day.
Life without depth perception would probably be stressful for most, but I’ve lived with it for so long that it’s just a way of life for me now. I first developed symptoms when I was 17, and I would get blurry vision after spending too many hours at the beach. I finally went to the opthamologist and learned that I had a scar the size of a grain of sand on my cornea. But I didn’t consider it too much of a problem until one day I tried to walk down a brick ramp at a small shopping complex in Westwood. The problem was that it wasn’t a ramp, it was a stairscase. Talking to my friends and not paying a whole lot of attention to where I was going, all I saw in front of me were the vertical lines of the bricks; I had no idea that I had to step down. So I tumbled down a short flight of stairs. Since then I have been accutely aware of my inability to perceive depth.
Do you know how sad it is to be at a 3-D movie where everyone is ducking and screaming as they try to avoid something jumping out of the screen, and all the while all you can do is just sit there, wondering what everyone else is experiencing? *sigh*
Harbinger of things to come
Anyway, I’ve always thought it was the scar in my right eye, but after class, I recalled an incident when I was a kid that may have been a harbinger of things to come. I was about 5 years old, and we lived in a house in East L.A. that would eventually be buried by the westbound lanes of the Pomona Freeway. But until then, I spent my days playing with the kids in the neighborhood, enjoying my pre-elementary school days. The back of our backyard was lined by a low wall–I think about 5 feet high or so–and on the other side was a path that ran along side a water duct that carried street runoff. One late afternoon, as I was playing in the backyard, I heard someone call my name.
“Hey, Onigiriman, let’s play,” called Daniel from the path on the other side of the wall.
I ran into the kitchen to ask my mother if I could go, but it was around 4PM and she said it was too late, that dinner would soon be ready, You cannot go.
I ran back to the wall to tell Daniel that I couldn’t go, but then he said the magic words:
I got some stuff to eat.
Without a second thought, I jumped over the wall and fell with a thud on the hard dirt path, bruising my knee. But I didn’t care, I was going to Daniel’s house and he had snacks to eat. When I got there, he showed me something that did not look very appetizing. I stuck my finger in it to give it a taste, just to satisfy Daniel, but to my chagrin, it tasted worse than it looked. And to make matters worse, my tongue was now on fire. As I recall now, it was probably a salsa verde, something that I would have loved to have eaten with him now. But back then, a JA boy of 5 did not have much interest in a gooey looking green sauce that burned his tongue.
So I decided to go home and climb over the backyard wall, hoping my mother didn’t miss my absence. But to my surprise, the five foot wall I scrambled over was now 8 feet high. The path, I figured out, was significantly lower than the ground level of our backyard, so what looked like a short hurdle from one side, looked like the face of a sheer cliff from the other. Both befuddled at my discovery and frightened by what was waiting for me at home, I had to walk around the block as slowly as I could. I don’t get it… it didn’t look that high from above… Did mom notice I was gone? Man, that green stuff was hot, I need to get some water. Will mom let me have water? How come I couldn’t tell how high the wall was? I was a chunk of mental confusion. I finally reached home and entered the house from the front door into the living room where my mother was waiting with her arms crossed. I was dead meat. My mother didn’t say a word, waiting for me to blurt out my latest excuse, and I swear I racked my brains for the best excuse my peanut-sized mind could come up with.
“It was the wall’s fault, mom. Really, it just, just… grew…“