It’s not every day that you get a phone call that sends you into complete orbit. It’s a good thing I use Google voice for everything, because I wouldn’t have heard the call otherwise. My house phone doesn’t have a loud ringer, so when I heard the caller ID on my computer say a new York area code, I answered it, thinking that it was going to be some telemarketer, asking if I wanted to buy some new underwear. I’m glad I use Google voice, in this regard, as well, because, with one button, I can record incoming calls or have the system automatically block callers after I hang up from them.
“Hello?” I ask the receiver. I answer on my house phone, even though it rang on my laptop. I don’t have the bandwidth required to keep up a phone conversation anymore, so my landline is tied into Google Voice.
“Hi. Are you still freelancing? We need an assignment finished.”
“Excuse me?” immediately, I am suspicious of this woman, calling me out of the blue, asking me to finish an assignment for her. I debate about telling her that if she were a black guy, she would have me in a New York minute.
“Mr. Kingett,” she trills, “did you not get the email I just sent you?” she sounds so rude I want to be a smart ass to this woman.
“You know email isn’t instant, right? I mean, it has to go through a server and stuff.” She ignores this comment completely, as if I’m some robot that didn’t say the right response to her script.
“I am with the New York Times,” she denotes, shooting her words at me like rapid shots of a handgun, “and I read a few of your articles online, and I want you to do an assignment for us. I want to get you to go to a military outpost in Chicago and get us some quotes about what they think about Donald Trump. We will pay you $500.”
“Do you need to take a breath? Can I ask a question while you do that?” I ask the flat woman. She sounds so lost I want to ask her if she’s seen a Disney cartoon, but I think the smarter thing to do would be to keep my big, fat, mouth, shut. Instead, I say,
“Who will provide the transportation? Will you guys be paying for my Uber?”
“Hum? Uber? What? Sir? Can’t you drive?” I honestly can’t believe what I am hearing. She literally, has no idea who I am. I decide to open up the rest of the can of worms, mainly because, it’s too late at night to schedule Paratransit, and, I am too poor to take Uber or a cab myself.
“It says on my journalism portfolio website, that I am blind.” Suddenly, I’ve injected life into her. She immediately becomes more human.
“Wait a minute, what? you are? You are blind? So you don’t have a car?”
“No. how will you provide me with one? Uber, or cab?” she sounds so confused before composing herself that I want to ask her if she can get me a Google Car while she’s at it.
“I’m sorry, but this is last minute. We need you down there in seven hours. Tomorrow morning. I know it’s late, but we want to know if you can take this assignment.”
I’m feeling conflicted. on the one hand; I will break my back to have my byline in the New York Times. On the other hand, I am, quite literally, just too poor to take a cab where she wants me to go. I also can’t take Paratransit because it’s 9 PM at night and they need 24 hours’ notice to go there and back. I don’t know how to get there by bus, and, I need to be there on time. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to overcome my blindness, a very huge part in my life. It’s times like these where I wish I had more friends with a car. I don’t know how to solve this, so, I tell her,
“I can’t take this assignment. You have to give me 48 hours’ notice.” She sounds like she expected this answer, and, already, I am kicking myself.
“Okay Mr. Kingett. I will make a note of it, beside your contact information.” I quickly ask if she can give me her email address. She calmly replies that I should just copy the email when replying to her message. She probably thinks I am beyond help.
I open up Gmail, and there it is. The timestamp says it was sent an hour before the call. I save her email address, and reply to her, pitching her a few investigative articles or opinion pieces, or, some breaking news I’ve just typed up this afternoon. Her reply is the nicest, go away, I’ve ever seen.
“Thank you for contacting me! I will look at these, but I am breaking news. It’s rare that I will give you heads up about anything, because we need the story. Stories don’t sleep. They are constantly moving and shifting. I will keep your email on file if I want to let you know about another assignment that’s in your area.”
I saved her email into a mail chimp database, reserved for paying editors, and sulk as I drink three cans of Insure, one after the other. My disabilities have never stopped me before. They’ve knocked me down, they have hindered me for a while, but they have never outright stopped me from doing anything. I feel like this was a once in a lifetime chance that I will never get back. It’s times like these where I wish the Google Car were legalized, and low income people, such as I, could experience what it’s like to just hop in a car and go whenever and wherever I want to go.
My blindness has failed me, and my economic status has failed me. I hope this wasn’t my only chance. I don’t understand why she couldn’t charge Uber on the company dime?
Now, I guess I will never know. I think I’m going to drink more insure, partly because I feel like I’ve let, not only myself down, but my drive and determination down. I’m ashamed to be telling my closest and dearest friends that, I’ve failed, because of my blindness.
Jesus, I really need some chocolate right now. I really do. I need a hug, too. That would be good.
I never thought that I’d get to write these words, but it has happened! I am not on the NYT best sellers list, but I am the best-selling nonfiction author in NLS.
NLS has a section In their catalog and on the website called most popular books. My book, Off the Grid, is the number one downloaded book in the nonfiction category and has been for a while. Two months and counting!
I’ve included a link to the NLS download below, but I also want to include the audible link to the book if you want to support me.
Kingett, Robert W. Reading time: 3 hours, 26 minutes.
Read by T. David Rutherford.
Journalist Robert Kingett accepts a challenge: to adapt to his blindness without the Internet and the array of digital devices from which he has never before been disconnected. He keeps an anecdotal month-long diary of his adventure–battling with an FM radio, hooking up a landline–and shares his discoveries and insights. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.
Download Off the grid: living blind without the Internet