I WAS the minority.
I was the hearing guy.
I was the odd man out.
I can only equate it to the time I was playing basketball near home once as a teenager. I was the only white kid playing (and it showed in my shooting, LOL) when one of the African American kids said "Hey, pass it to the colored guy!"
I had to laugh, because, in that place, at that time, that's exactly what I was.
I was the colored guy.
In both incidents, it was sobering. I got a good feel for what they were experiencing EVERY DAY. I'd like to say it didn't bother me and that I got over it, but obviously, I'm still talking about it, so it had an impact.
Because Rob was in class during the daytime hours, I was left to fend for myself during my stay. The first trip I took out, he offered me the use of his car so I could go see Niagara Falls. I took him up on it and made the hour and a half trip. The falls were stunning! I crossed the border into Canada - using nothing more than my driver's license at the time - to get a better view of the Horseshoe falls.
It was breathtaking, magnificent and humbling. I was so glad I'd made the trip.
At the same time, I discovered it's not much fun travelling by yourself. When you see something as spectacular as Niagara Falls, you want someone to share it with. So I took some pictures and headed back to Rochester.
The second trip to NTID was much better. I was more comfortable in the campus surroundings and Rob's friends now knew me as "Rob's hearing brother," so the freak appeal had worn off a bit. It was this trip I got to finally meet my "pen pal" Donna who I had been writing to for a year before this. We didn't spend too much time together as I remember, but thankfully we kept writing after that and eventually fell in love.
The big "side trip" we took while I was there the second time was to Boston. We drove the 5 hour trip in Rob's maroon Malibu, while a couple of his girl "friends" Katarina and Michelle(?) drove in their car. We stayed at Katarina's dad's mansion in Boston. It was a ridiculously large house, something like 24 rooms. We took the train in and walked around Boston Harbor, Fannuel Hall, and downtown during the day.
That night we went back into downtown for a midnight showing of Pink Floyd's The Wall movie. Katarina was driving but when it came time to park, she freaked out because she got flustered trying to find a place to park. She stopped the car and said "I can't do this!" She got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side. Not knowing what to do, I climbed into the driver's seat and started driving.
In downtown Boston. At about 11:00 at night. A city I'd been in for about 4 hours total.
Now if you've ever had the joy of driving in Boston, I know you'll appreciate what I was experiencing. It is home to absolutely the worst drivers in the world. Fast, rude, and reckless. And here I was, one of them.
I winged it and ended up parking in a spot that turned out not to be a parking spot at all. When the movie was over, we came out to a $30 parking ticket. I assured her it was better than getting a moving violation or in an accident, both of which were real possibilities with this Midwestern hick at the wheel. She was not amused.
The rest of my trips there were spent in revelry and celebration. I was with my brother, who was probably my best friend at the time, we were both young and carefree, and I was a million miles from the responsibilities of home. We laughed and laughed, he skipped a couple of classes (and graduated anyway) and I got a taste of student campus life that I'd never had. (I commuted to the U of MN campus from moms house in St. Paul - Never lived in the dorms.)
So I will always look back on Rochester, NY with fondness. It's funny how a place can take on a personality after only a couple of visits. I might add that I took a third visit to Rochester the next year, when I was courting Donna. That trip helped seal the deal that Rochester will always hold a special place in my heart.
More next time.