A task attempted every time I go to these things, I am daring to try and capture at least some of what I felt at my fourth Norrie Conference in Boston. These have, somewhat through happenstance, occurred try-annually (Triennially)? I don’t know, every three years! starting in 2009. The only year I no longer have documented in any way is 2012, because that blog had long since been disassembled. In the 2015 post, probably the most interesting of those was the first that I made.
In the most current iteration of this conference, much was the same, but also much was different. So, let’s take a look.
The “Fun” of Getting There
Because she loved their service and comfort so much, and I had been told that if I notified them via social media we would be given seats in the front of the aircraft again, I chose to book us on JetBlue Airways. This time, I managed to get nonstop roundtrip flights, with the only drawback. being that they were both super early. On the outbound to BOS, we were placed in row 4. Inbound to RDU, we got row two. Nice. Only, the first flight didn’t actually depart as early as it was supposed to. The scheduled time was 5:45, but they ended up needing to swap planes as the AC unit on one of them was not functioning entirely properly and could thus not be deployed on an international journey. They wanted to fly it to their hub in Boston for repairs, and still transport passengers on that flight. This meant towing jets, changing gates, and general head-achiness when one’s brain is barely working. Fortunately the delayed exit (we ended up leaving shortly after 7:10) caused us not much more than some annoyance as we had no early morning conference plans and nothing but time. I do appreciate the folks at JetBlue for their candor there; we as passengers had no real reason to know the reason for the delay, but telling us shows a respect for our time. And as my wife pointed out, it gives me a little more story. Because nothing in my life occurs without some kind of unexpected twist.
Boston, for the Seventh Time
The flight was largely uneventful, with me chatting some with her and reading a log. I acquired a bag of somewhat stale chocolate chip cookies, but I suppose they did what they were supposed to do and gave me a little bit of a sugar rush. Once on the ground at Logan Airport, we opted to summon a Lyft ride. I knew I had a small promotion through them, thus making the nearly 20-minute trip to the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hills a little more affordable. The Lyft app told us where we were to stand, and she identified the correct vehicle after the 7 minutes it took to arrive. The thing I like about these services, of course, is that we can just slide in and be off as the destination is already programmed into the driver’s GPS. I can also watch the time till arrival as it ticks down. I know taxi drivers have issues with ride-hailing, but what they give blind folks in terms of ease of navigation is not matched in any other sector.
After plowing through insanely thick traffic and making friendly conversation with this man who is originally from Haiti but has resided in Boston for 33 years, we pulled up at our hotel. I’ll ignore my bank account and associated cards for the next little while, as it’s so expensive to stay in there! Fortunately though, the Norrie Disease Association did knock off nearly $100 as compared to what I paid for our 2015 visit. Once checked in and having dropped off luggage and complimentary goodie bags in the room, we headed to Au Bon Pain for some sustenance. She wanted a blueberry muffin and a Latte, but I needed only a good, hot cup of coffee. This did its job in helping me to stay alert during our first gathering of the day.
The River Picnic
Then came my favorite innovation of this whole conference; a picnic of boxed lunches by the Charles River. Located fairly close to the Perkins School for the Blind, this walk also has a Braille Trail that would allow for independent navigation by blind folks if they wish, and, I assume, plaques that describe what one can feel. Unfortunately, well sort of just as we were about to set off on this trail the ice cream truck showed up. I mean, of course I was happy for that treat, but it meant we did not have time to take advantage of that walk. Ah well. I’d done something like that before in the North Carolina mountains, walked a Braille Trail following a long rope that showed us many of the plants and such that grew on that level.
But this all occurred after we had eaten. I believe the food, rather large sandwiches of varying kinds, had come from a place called Luna Cafe. I think I had a turkey sandwich of some kind, oh yes with little apple flecks and vegetables in it. It was good, but I could barely eat it all! They also gave a big chocolate chip cookie and some chips. We enjoyed sitting on the blankets which we were then able to keep as they too had been provided by the NDA, and chattering with so many different parents and family members. We were also breathing a sigh of relief that the rains had decided to hold off long enough for us to enjoy our gathering.
Tokens had been distributed to allow us to get one free offering from the ice cream truck and I settled on lemon Italian ice. That was my first of that, but I liked it It was mostly like a snow cone, but better flavored. I also managed to consume it with very little mess.
There were morning and afternoon tours of the Perkins school as well, but given that we had done this in 2015, I opted to just partake of the picnic. So when the return shuttle bus came at about 1:35, we barely made it onboard and back to the hotel before crashing for the next three hours. These conferences are always exhausting for me, though also quite enjoyable.
More Networking Under the Lights
The next social began at approximately 6:30. Held in a room in the Simches building at Massachusetts General Hospital, this experience was generally better for those of us with limited hearing than the previous one had been. The room was large enough to allow us to spread out, and my cousin, a board member with Norrie and I stood at a standing table wolfing down finger food and Sam Adams (because you should drink Sam Adams if you’re in Boston) and discussing any and everything for nearly two hours. The funniest part of the evening though was that my wife and I, as well as my cousin and his wife, were the only ones other than those who were organizing things, to show up at exactly 6:30. Hey, we don’t play when food is being offered!
And with that, a fun day wrapped up. Because of the nap we had already taken, I was not at that point totally wiped. Even so, I read a little more of a book called The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat, which I chose because it is partially set in Boston, and called it a night.