Doors open when you say ‘yes’ |

Doors open when you say ‘yes’

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Sometimes, a person has so little idea how a moment of boredom, a small reflex of habit on a random day, is about to change his life. And then POP! You done woke up, boy.

So it was for me when a cheerful blind lady named Nancy walked in late to the class’s first day of creative writing four years ago. It was 9 a.m. at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley Campus. I had taken creative writing classes before, at Boulder, but writing is something that is never perfected, like a stream of music. I signed up to take the class on Tuesdays and Thursdays before going to work the evening copy-editing shift at the Post Independent. I sat in the third row of that little classroom and gazed at the syllabus, thinking I knew so well what to expect. The sound of the heavy classroom door opening split the routine. A lady twice the age of all us other students walked in, guided by an office attendant. I saw she was blind as she felt for her seat across the aisle from me. The attendant explained the situation in whispers to our dark, wavy haired teacher (wish I could remember her name) and I watched with curious detachment. “Did anyone here drive from Glenwood?” the attendant asked the class of about seven. I had. I raised my hand. “Would it be possible for you to drive Nancy home today?”

“Sure.” It would be interesting to meet the lady, anyway, I thought. What was one ride? I gulped in the silence of the cab on the way home. I wanted to ask many questions but didn’t want to be intrusive. I also felt it would be rude to listen to the radio loud when my passenger couldn’t even look out the window, so we sat in mostly silence. I mustered courage to ask a question about how she might perceive colors if she’d never seen them before. (She associated colors with other sensory details, such as texture or temperature – cold things are blue, hot things are red.) Nancy was very polite and patient. She was, after all, used to a lifetime of remastering the same challenges among sighted people who didn’t understand her situation even when they thought they did. She offered me gas money when I dropped her off at a house she lived in by herself with a dog. That was when I learned I’d basically volunteered a semester of rides the moment I raised my hand. I could’ve said no – clung to my security blanket of predictable sameness – but I knew I would feel guilty driving to class alone when it was barely out of my way to help someone. I felt a little ambushed about the situation, but it was probably fair to assume I wouldn’t have raised my hand if I’d have known the full scope of the request that morning. Another unexpected thing happened on the second day of class. Our assignment was to write about an object with personal significance and read our essay in front of the class. Bawling tears erupted from my face without warning as I read mine. I suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable and pathetic in front of several strangers. Nancy was supportive during the ride home.

Several people dropped out in the following week, perhaps wanting to avoid the milquetoast guy who cries. The class was down to about four, including Nancy, who wrote on a computer that sounded each letter in an electronic voice as she typed. She wrote poems about bike riding and essays about triathlons. We came to be friends, in my opinion, though we didn’t keep in touch after the class.

Nancy’s brief part in my life opened my eyes a little wider. That’s why I didn’t hang up the phone when a 74-year-old French lady called my office line four months ago. I’m currently unable to explain exactly how, but once again, a relationship that began with some mild inconvenience has proved life changing. I wonder what humanity might accomplish if we said yes to each other more often.

Derek’s column appears every other Monday in the Post Independent. He can be reached at

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