6 Most Extreme Feats
I’m really not what you would call intrepid. I certainly do not expect to ever be the first at anything. I’m not going to be the first blind woman on the moon. I struggle to fly to Durban without completely freaking out. I just don’t have a desire to jump off of things, do anything even vaguely athletic or ride in anything that goes much faster than an amiable pace. I was actually offered a place on the Paralympic rowing team a few years ago which I flatly turned down. I’m really not kidding, it happened. Let me stress though, I was offered the place purely because they were struggling to fill it not because the coach spotted me and thought, “Yes, that’s an athlete in the making!” I was actually eating a gigantic piece of carrot cake at the time the offer was made so yes, desperate times apparently do call for desperate measures i.e. scouting for disabled people in coffee shops.
No, I am not one of those Extreme Blind People breaking records and wowing the crowds with their go-get-it attitude. And yet, on thinking about it, I have done a few extreme things in my time. Okay, obviously not on the level of breaking land speed records and jumping to earth from outer space but nonetheless, these are Michelle’s 6 Most Extreme Feats.
1: Pamphlet Marketing
When I was eighteen a group of my friends got holiday jobs handing out pamphlets for a promotions company. I really wanted to do it too and was reasonably sure that I would be able to cope. What I had not banked on was a three lane intersection of speeding death machines.
I think we earned about R300 which, in hindsight, really wasn’t worth risking my life. I just sort of ran about haphazardly between the cars thrusting pamphlets at windows whether they were open or not. Things were not improved by the fact that we had to wear branded peaked caps which severely restricted the vision I did have. Every time I heard the cars begin to rev I would dash back to the pavement and walk back to my starting point, the yellow pole of a traffic light, tripping over the same pile of bricks every single time.
My dad spent the day parked on the far side of the road watching me (without my knowledge) trip over that pile of bricks again and again. I think this really illustrates my parents’ awesome (I’m not being sarcastic here) parenting style . You want to try this? Okay, try it but we’ll be right there just in case.
Of course, none of the motorists would ever have guessed that I was blind and so I really must have looked, at best, doggedly persistent, at worst,like a complete idiot attempting to hand them pamphlets through their resolutely closed windows. I didn’t tell the owner of the promotions company that I was blind either because I knew she wouldn’t have agreed to take me on – my apologies to her. I didn’t die but I did learn to always take pamphlets from the poor suckers at the traffic lights.
2: Live Action Drama
I was very involved with drama and music during high school and loved being a part of shows and performances with my friends. Side note; these rather brilliant friends of mine never once excluded me or assumed I couldn’t do something. However, this did often mean that I found myself having to do some pretty dangerous things. Of course, only hindsight reveals them to be dangerous. Maybe I’ve just gotten overly cautious in my old age?
In one show written by my friends for a one act play festival, I played the older of two sisters who, at the dramatic climax, had to run across the stage and tackle her younger sister knocking a gun from her hand. This would have been tricky enough without the fact that the stage was set in two halves (a sitting room and garden scene) separated by two tall black rostra forming the impression of a door. Everything was black, the floor, the backdrop the rostra, everything. I realised during the rehearsal that I could not see where to run, the whole space looked like a black hole and I could not distinguish the black boxes at all. One of my friends cleverly suggested that we stick white tape againdt the side of each of the rostra. So I found myself running at full tilt, aiming at the narrow gap between two tiny strips of white while yelling hysterically, “Nooooo” and landing on (without actually hurting) the blob of colour that I assumed was my suicidal younger sister. So much could have gone wrong! Like what if I had run full speed into one of the rostra and knocked myself out? Would my sister have shot herself and the evil villain done a victory dance around our lifeless bodies (my body would have literally been lifeless) in the interest of the show going on? Anyway, that didn’t happen I’m pleased to report.
3: Tractor Driving
My aunt and uncle live on a small holding near Malmsbury and it was always a fun outing to visit them. One of the first times we visited (I must have been about ten) my cousins took turns to drive my uncle’s tractor around the large plot of land while the rest of the cousins rode in the trailor attached. Of course, I took my turn too (again, unquestioning inclusion albeit reckless). I was literally a blind ten-year-old driving a tractor with the entire next generation of my family in a trailor behind me.
I’m happy to report that their yells were not of terror but more along the lines of, “This is Awesome!!!” I did drive into and over an entire pile of wood (or fallen tree or something) and that was the end of my driving career. Its the only and last time I’ve ever driven anything.
4: Cross-country Running
During the time that I attended Vista Nova primary school we had to play a sport on a Thursday afternoon. This I hated and faked illness often. My winter sport was a sort of track and feild club run by Paralympic runner, Malcolm Pringle and his coach, Random-Guy – not his real name because I can’t remember his name not because I’m protecting his identity which would be silly and unnecessary – Rob? Dave? We could choose either running or field events and I chose the latter or the lesser of two evils. However, one fateful day, Random-Guy-Rob-Dave was not there and we all had to go running around Rondebosch led by our fearless Paralympic champion.
So there I was, never having run further than a few metres attempting to keep up with a literal Olympic standard runner, trailing at the back, squinting to keep the white T-shirt of the straggler faster than me in sight knowing that if I lost him I would be totally screwed. To add insult to injury I had forgotten my PE shoes at home that day so I was bare foot. I honestly thought I was going to die out there.
What this day instilled in me was; an abiding hatred for the Olympic Games, fear of the Rondebosch Common (I haven’t set foot there since) and a deep dislike of Random-Guy-Rob-Dave and Malcolm Pringle who, in his defense, was probably only around twenty years old at the time and just trying to encourage kids with disabilities to get into sports.
5: Bicycle Riding
My parents were always keen for me to experience things that all kids experience. As a result I did a whole host of extra mural activities; horse riding (not the serious kind, the kind where you have someone leading the horse), gymnastics (not the serious kind, the kind where you do a forward roll with a teacher doing most of the rolling), ballet (not the serious kind, the kind where you run about flapping your arms vaguely, pretending to be a butterfly), recorder lessons (not my finest musical moment) and art (the serious kind, nope, just kidding).
My dad was also very keen for me to ride a bicycle so he taught me. I loved riding my pink bike up and down our rode singing at the top of my voice (there is no better place to sing than on a speeding pink bike with the wind in your face, just saying). Sometimes my dad would take me and my brother on longer rides around the neighbourhood. I’d follow straight behind his back tire and he would verbally guide me along as well with my younger brother next to us. My poor mom would stay at home and pray for us not to get squished. I loved those rides though. I don’t think, despite the idiom, that I’d be able to ride a bike today.
6: Fire Fighting
Perhaps the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done is jump off the kid’s pirate ship jungle gym at the V&A Waterfront. Does anyone else remember it? The pirate ship I mean, not the time I jumped off it. Twas the nineties, twas a simpler time.
I’m making it sound like it was an organised jumping activity like bunjee jumping or “jump from this height onto this cushioning surface with safety precautions and supervising staff”.No, I flung myself off the highest point of the pirate ship without using the fireman’s ple provided for the purpose of getting down.
And no, psycho-babblers, I was neither consciously nor sub-consciously suidcidal – I just don’t think I:
a) Understood the concept of the firemans pole
b) Perceived the height I was at
c) Quite got how I was supposed to get to the pole from the platform.
Anyway, I was nine years old and on a school outing. I plummeted to earth, pulled all the ligaments in my right ankle (which has never been the same again) and had to be carried around by various boys in my class for the rest of the day which was awkward except for when the boy I really liked had his turn and then it was awkward but also the best day of my life so far!.
Those are my most extreme feats and I doubt there will be many more. I do think I’ve become less adventurous, less open to figuring out the details later, more cautious and aware of the embarrassment potential should things go wrong. Now my adventures are pretty mundane like taking a crowded train or finding my way around the CBD. Perhaps I should invest in a pink bike though…maybe a stationary one…