I got on the bus in a major city just the other day. After loading my bicycle on the front rack, I removed my bike flag and carried it on board with me. I went to the back and found a seat facing the front. The pair of seats opposite me faced the back of the bus and there I saw a teenage boy. It was clear he was friends with another young man who sat on the opposite side of the bus.
“He got one of them gay bike flags, there,” the first young man said to his friend, more than once, indicating me and clearly wanting to get my attention in some way. I ignored him. He then began looking at me with a grin, attempting to get my attention by some means. I paid no attention, even when he began grinning at me and making a hand motion in the air, pretending to masturbate.
I continued to stare forward and brought out my Braille slate to practice writing. Generally when I do this, I look straight ahead, concentrating on what my hands are doing instead of what is happening in front of my eyes. After a short time of seeing what I was doing (and probably noticing that I was paying no attention to him), the young man said to his friend, “Hey, I think he blind. Yeah.” He then began waving and grinning directly in my line of vision, perhaps to see if he could get me to laugh.
He got the attention of a woman in the seat behind me, though. “What?” she asked of the first young man, after talking to the second briefly, trying to learn if their families knew each other. “I think he blind. He doin’ Braille,” the first young man said.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. I knew it was the woman who had spoken to the young men. As I was turning my head toward her, she said “Are you blind?” I did not finish turning my head to face her, but instead turned back facing front and said nothing. There was an uncomfortable pause. “Well, it don’t matter to me—” she went on after a moment.
At that moment I almost felt like crying. I didn’t understand how people can behave this way, singling a person out in front of other people, pointing out what they perceived was a disability in front of a crowd. Instead, I continued to ignore them.
Meanwhile, their interest in me trailed off as they sat with their actions exposed, I hope, by my ignoring them. I hope they learned something.