Monday, February 2, 2009

The Loser Helps Out

woman coffee shop worker
On Mondays, the Complete and Total Loser does a few hours of volunteer work. He reads newspapers over the radio airwaves so the vision impaired can learn more about what's going on in their city via a special one-station radio just for them.
He reads decently enough—you have to pass a test reading out loud to do this—and enjoys the reading, though he suspects that in this age of the Internet and descriptive services on television few listen to what he reads. No matter. If it's just half a dozen people, that's fine with the Loser.
There are three paid workers for the radio part of the service, which is one department of a much larger organization that provides services for the blind. Two, who do much of the radio part that doesn't involve reading text, are men who have both been blind since birth.
The Loser adapted to them quickly, learning to say who he was when greeting them lest they struggle to place his voice with his name. He's used to their different, unaffected body language and their unseeing eyes. They work shifts that overlap a couple of hours. They clearly dislike each other despite having something so significant in common, but they work together well enough.
Most volunteers reading the newspapers read in pairs, but the loser, even at fifty the youngest of them, has a different energy level than they do and prefers to read solo. He has an hour to read his city's tabloid. He reads fast and, unlike the elderly retirees, includes things like homicides, rapes and Dear Abby.
He begins around noon and finishes by three. He then heads for home or the train station and for the rest of the day any reading he does will be at a spoken rate.
Like any sighted person, the Loser can't imagine being blind and never having seen. The experience would be the closest thing that living on another planet that anyone will ever have.

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