Drying Paint

13 Mar

by Nancy Scott

Ernie chaired our local radio-reading-service’s programming committee. I was former chair and still a member of the monthly phone meeting. Since Ernie also read for RADPRIN he read several newspaper essays of mine on the air. One night he said something about my essays that I’ve never forgotten. “I bet you could write about paint drying, and it would be interesting.” At the time I laughed, but couldn’t think of a paint-drying incident to write about.

But three years after I moved to a big apartment building I had my first paint encounter. Building management decided to paint the halls and apartment doors. No one told me when the painter would arrive. I am an observant (nosy) tenant, which saved me from wet paint.

I knew from a neighbor that the second floor was finished. Several mornings later I heard rattling of probable ladders and buckets. Once I opened my door I smelled fumes and asked what was happening.

The painter didn’t understand why I needed to know where he was. I patiently explained that I couldn’t see the paint, and asked when he would get to my door. When he understood, he told me his painting plan.

It was quick-drying paint, so staying in my apartment until around 5 p.m. for the two days he worked was not difficult.

* * *

Wet paint is an occasional problem. But it points to a larger concern: things like printed signs and notices under doors that I can’t read. When I first moved in, the cleaning lady delivered such notices and she always knocked on my door to read about water being shut off or air conditioner filters being changed.

The management of my privately-owned building has never figured out that a phone call would be helpful. I’m not asking so much for accessibility. I’d settle for common sense or common courtesy.

One neighbor suggested that I seem to cope so well that people assume I’ll figure this out. “They forget you can’t see.” But I always use a cane, and I can’t read print.

I have hidden a Braille label to mark my floor number outside the unmarked elevator. I have accessorized my door with bells hanging on the outside.

In our last hall-painting experience—different painters, but same exact scenario—they took down the hanging fixtures, saying we couldn’t hang things any more. But I needed an identifier. So I used a twisty tie to hang a tiny dream-catcher from my door-knocker. I did that the same day the paint dried.

It’s still there, a month later. I’m currently wondering how to sneak dots onto the digital treadmill in the exercise room. (With people who deny access, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.)

Stay tuned.

Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet.  Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.

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