I needed a few things at Office Depot and was looking over the selections when a stranger walked up to me with a pair of headphones in his hand. He politely said, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I’m trying to buy these for my daughter. Could you tell me what color these are?” He lifted them up for me to see as he added, “I’m colorblind.”
What he obviously did not know is that I am also colorblind. So when he lifted the headphones up for my eyes to see, I had absolutely no idea what color they were. The only thing I knew for certain was they weren’t plaid.
Undeterred, however, I leaned over, took a good look and said, “I believe they are blue.” The man smiled, said, “Thank you,” and went on to explain his daughter liked blue but disliked purple. He was turning around to leave when I added, “I suppose I should tell you that I, too, am colorblind.”
There was a special moment as four colorblind eyes met. Through the fog of unknown shades of color, we instantly bonded in a world where, without help, neither one of us can buy ripe bananas.
We just stood there, blinking, reflecting on the countless times we had asked total strangers, “What color is this?”
He finally broke the awkward silence and asked, “Can you see stop lights?” I stood tall and replied with a confident, “Nope.” That’s right; think about that the next time you pull up to a stop light. Especially if I, or my X chromosome deficient friend, is in the car coming the other direction.
My colorblindness was discovered in the first grade. My parents sent me to a private school run by a sweet Lutheran German lady who could bend horseshoes with her bare hands. Corporal punishment was the behavioral modification technique of choice and apparently, I required regular modification. When she said, “Take out the green crayon and color the grass,” she meant it. It wasn’t until my third or fourth behavioral modification session that it began to dawn on the Lutheran that perhaps I wasn’t intentionally coloring the grass red.
Colorblindness is classified as a “mild handicap,” and no matter how much you argue it doesn’t qualify for a handicap sticker. About 8% of the male population is colorblind and, to the relief of the fashion world, it is rare for women to have faulty retinal cones causing colorblindness.
We do, in fact, see colors. Being colorblind means you’re not able to perceive the differences. It’s really no big deal unless you want to be a doctor, pilot, police officer, painter, electrician, fire fighter, or buy ripe fruit.
It’s no surprise then, that I honestly don’t care what color something is. It just doesn’t factor in. My wife could paint our entire house lime-green (which I’m told is not a good house color) and it wouldn’t bother me in the least. In fact, when I first started dating the pretty girl who is now my wife, she was the first one to inform me that the nice pair of khaki pants I bought in college were, in fact, lime green.
Standing in the Office Depot aisle with my new colorblind friend, we shared a few laughs about coping in our color-coordinated world — things like trying to match dress socks or a necktie with a suit. Watching me attempt either of those things is a source of great entertainment for my kids.
About this time an Office Depot clerk came around so my new friend politely asked, “Excuse me, but what color are these?” The clerk took a quick glance, gave us a strange look and said, “bright purple.” I watched as the clerk helped locate a pair of blue headphones and couldn’t help but smile. He was wearing khaki pants, just like the ones I bought in college.