In that survey, 36% admitted to changing jobs due to an annoying co-worker. Lopez was close. “Yes, interactions with her were very challenging. I’ll call her Pest to protect her identity.”
She says she’s had to deal with Pest’s multiple difficult personality traits. “She’s the know-it-all one, the complainer, and the office gossip,” says Lopez, pulling at her hair. “I try to avoid her like COVID-19!”
In bliss working from home the past year, Lopez is unfortunately now back in the office, so she’s using her visual impairment to her advantage. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Lopez has lost some peripheral vision but still has her central vision. She uses her white cane mainly for identification and to navigate in unfamiliar places.
A common misconception about blindness is that it means total darkness, but the degree of sight varies with each person. “I can still see partially,” says Lopez. “But Pest doesn’t know that!”
According to Lopez, as soon as she spots Pest, she starts swinging her cane even though she’s on familiar ground and doesn’t need to. Other times she walks right past her without acknowledgement. If she’s trapped having lunch with Pest, she “accidentally” knocks over a glass of water she “didn’t see” and excuses herself to clean up.
Lopez doesn’t recommend anyone doing any of this unless they’re desperate. For her, it was either pull her hair out, quit her job or pretend to be more blind than she really is. After virtually no contemplation, she chose the latter.
Does she feel dishonest? “RP has been the catalyst for many to race in triathlons, start podcasts, write books. I’m just using RP in a different way,” justifies Lopez with a wink, dodging the question. “If I have to live with it, I might as well make use of it!”
And just as she says this, she hears a pesty voice in the distance. “Brianna, wanna grab lunch?” The look of fear envelops Lopez’s face. She turns up her AirPods, pretends not to hear and quickly taps her white cane away in the opposite direction.