All your nagging questions answered!
No, being blind in one eye did not prove a hindrance in Cairo. In fact, it may actually have helped.
Before my trip, the half-blind thing was just one small part of the much larger wad of anxiety. My thinking went something like: the traffic is so hideous and chaotic there, surely I won’t be able to keep track of it all and get blindsided by a bus! But the disproportionately higher number of people in Cairo with disabilities who get around just fine every day…. (Breathe.) Or maybe it’s not disproportionately higher, because they get killed off faster! (Stop breathing.)
But crossing the street proved no more difficult than it had back when I had two working eyes. Cars still careen nonstop, with no traffic lights, and you have to convince yourself that they will in fact drive around you once you step down off the sidewalk. It is still an overwhelming process that you eventually get a little better at. (Or not–Mandy, who’s lived there ten years, admits she still panics during street crossings, and happily takes taxis just to cross particularly bad intersections, such as the mess around the Ramses Hilton. One native Cairene once said to her, “I don’t understand–you speak Arabic. So how can you not have learned to cross the street?”)
So it’s not like you step off the curb casually, midway in a chitchat with a friend over where to get the best koshari. No, it commands all your attention, and usually gripping tightly to the arm of said friend–there was no chance that I would just, say, forget to look to my left.
But where the blind spot actually came in handy–and I was not expecting this–was with street hassle. It turns out it is so much easier to ignore people if I genuinely cannot see them!
Of course, they don’t know I can’t, so they think I’m a callous bitch either way, but in desperate situations (like trying to dodge someone while crossing a street–v.v. complicated!), it worked like a charm.
Speaking of callousness, I did notice a few beggars trying to capitalize on half-blindness, usually with one eye looking all cataract-y, or rolling horribly off to one side, or just not being there at all.
Dude. Please, I wanted to say. I can see right through you.