Wordpretzels, there’s something I have to tell you. I’m afraid I’m not quite as perfect as you think I am. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I am, in fact, colour blind. Let me explain how I found out. Let me take you back to when I was 10 years old … (wibbly lines, wobbly music…)
My school decided to give us all an eye test, which included a colour blindness test – showing lots of multi-coloured circles with numbers and patterns in them. In order to up the tension in these tests, the school had thoughtfully invited mothers along to see how we performed. I have deliberately identified the ‘parent’ a mother, since these were the days when dads didn’t go near a school, a maternity ward, an iron, cooker, washing line, moisturiser or even deodorant. So, the moment arrived when I sat in the powder blue medical room with a man in a tweed suit who, like most figures IN AUTHORITY at the time, had a heady scent of stale tobacco. He showed me the first page in his book of colourful circles.
“Now, young man, what number can you see?” I looked intently at the coloured circle. Number? I stared at him blankly. I felt a nudge in the back. “Don’t be silly, tell the man it’s a nine,” my mum hinted, helpfully. The doctor gave my mum a reproachful glare.
“Please, Mrs Randall,” he said, “it would be best to let your son give me the answer.”
My mum was rather taken aback, but made no complaint since the man was IN AUTHORITY. The next circle produced the same result. I saw nothing. My mum shifted in her seat and gave a sigh.
“What about this one?” the man said helpfully, turning to the next page in his colourful book. Nope. “Could you draw the pattern you see with your finger?” he encouraged.
I waved my index finger vaguely over the page, drawing, well, I don’t know what. Mum couldn’t contain herself. I felt a gentle clip on the back of my head.
“Stop showing off!” she cried, “just trace out that number 8!”
“Mrs Randall,” said the man, “if you cannot contain yourself, you’ll have to leave,” he told her in a very calm, level tone.
I swallowed hard. Please let me get the next one. I didn’t. Nor the one after, even with my mum clipping me firmly on the back of the head and shouting duck. It was at this juncture she was ejected from the room and made to sit in custody under the watchful eye of the school nurse. By the end of the test, I’d managed to get one right. My mum was accompanied back into the room.
“I’m afraid your son is colour blind,” said the man IN AUTHORITY. My mum’s bottom lip wobbled momentarily. “Will he need bottle bottom glasses?” she asked, “ or a special operation?” Before my mum could go on to suggest a rainbow cane or colour seeking dog, the man IN AUTHORITY interrupted her.
“No. Nothing can be done. It’s genetic,” he explained.
We left the room together and for the next 40 years tried our best not to mention it again. Of course, explaining to people that you’re colour blind can cause some interesting reactions.
“What colour’s my top? What’s green? How do you see traffic lights?” are a few of the questions thrown at you. It’s hard to explain exactly what colour blindness is. I know there have been times when my favourite dark blue shirt I’ve had for several years turns out to be brown, but most of the time, I can cope quite well. It’s not as if I dress like a children’s entertainer or somebody auditioning for X Factor. As far as I know. No. Most of the time I can cope. Snooker is a bit of an issue. I can’t tell the difference between the red balls and the brown one. Playing PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) on the X box is another problem. Which one am I? The player with the light yellow/orange/green/wtf colour above his head or what??
Then there are the jobs you can’t do:
Flight controller (my goodness can you imagine).
Pilot – the only reason I couldn’t be exactly the same as Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
Electrician – although the colours of wires has been changed to help blind people like me. But I’d still go bang, much like I would if I were a Bomb Disposal Expert – red, green or blue wire? What about the one in the middle?
Painter/decorator – But I can do this as an amateur. Lady BSM chooses the paint. I just put it on the wall. As far as she’s concerned, I’m taste blind as well as colour blind.
Colour Blindness Tester – 8, you say? OK…
Apparently, in some countries, such as Romania, you’re not allowed to drive if you’re colour blind, which seems a little extreme in a country where I believe it’s legal to marry at 14 and use a handgun in a supermarket. I could be mistaken, however. Just for some fun, here are a couple of those circles the man IN AUTHORITY showed me all those years ago. Good luck. I can feel my mum prodding me in the back as I stare at them now.
If you can see something in any of these pictures, my mum would have been proud of you. Having trouble with the last one? It’s the easiest for me. Of course, it’s 5. But you have to be colour blind in order to see it. Now you know how I feel.