Almost every day for years, I have seen a blind lady walk by my house from the window of my computer room, which faces the street. She is a tiny woman, spry, and walking very briskly, swinging her long, white cane side-to-side in front of her. I would guess her age at her mid-70s with dyed hair and wearing no-nonsense jeans and shoes.
(Someone once asked, if she is blind, why doesn’t she just walk up and down her own street? Reasonable question, but I don’t know the answer.)
Over two years ago, I was doing yard work as she passed by, and we had a short conversation. It was short because she seemed anxious to get on with her walk and was only tolerating my interruption out of politeness. About all I learned was her name was Ellen. Until recently, I have not talked to her since.
Last week I saw her and her husband in our grocery store. “Hi, Ellen,” I said. “You walk past my house almost every day.”
“Oh, yes,” she replied. “You’re the man on Halstead Road.”
I was amazed that she remembered me, but most of all that she recognized my voice. I am terrible at recognizing voices. I often find myself talking with someone on the phone, faking it for at least 5 minutes until I finally have to ask who I am speaking with.
But my voice may be more unique than I realize. I once taught a Red Cross class with a very sharp Indian girl who was excellent at imitating accents. I told her she could not imitate me because I had no accent. “Oh, yes you do! You would be easy.” she assured me.
My surprise in the grocery store must have been evident because Ellen’s husband nodded at me and said she is very good at remembering voices.
Yes, she is.