From muscle car driver to blind public transit user, Michael Merriam shares funny and poignant personal stories of transition through our car culture, via levitating cars, a bus fire, and being buried alive.
Fringe-goers have the opportunity to attend three shows about blindness: Unsafe at Any Speed, Lazy Eyed Geek, and What I Thought I Saw: Random Acts of Blindness. All three have made their way to my schedule, and I started with Michael Merriam’s Unsafe at Any Speed.
A small crowd settled in at the front of the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater at 10pm on Saturday ready to listen and perhaps learn something new. While a larger audience would have been nice, this made for an intimate, more personal show, and we prepared for some lovely (and some bizarre) stories centered around transportation.
Michael has an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa which causes progressive blindness. For an extra dose of fun, he has Charles Bonnet Syndrome which causes his brain to attempt to fill in images with objects that aren’t really there. As one might imagine, anyone experiencing RP and CBS shouldn’t put themselves behind the wheel.
But vehicles are part of our identity, so what happens when you have to go without? I’m well aware that having a car is a luxury, a status symbol, a fashion statement – I even carefully selected my lime green car and put thought into naming Basil. I also know people without cars who must carefully plan their schedules around public transportation which can be a little harrowing, but I find myself envious at the same time because I tend to hate driving.
What thoughts come to mind when you think about not having a car?
Michael brings so many different thoughts and perspectives on transportation and the ability to drive through his story-telling, and while he includes countless memories in his show, he never feels rushed, and all feel equally important. He also provides a helpful education on what it can be like to be disabled and how people treat you as a result, along with other frustrations that accompany his RP.
You’ll learn why sometimes a free cup of birthday coffee at Dunn Bros just isn’t worth it, about the humility that one must accept when losing the privilege of driving, and maybe even why Michael had to explain to a farmer why there was a car in his tree.
His show reminded me that we all use stories to make sense of the world and that we can’t assume where someone is coming from. We need to not make assumptions and celebrate our differences. After all, we all have different stories, and they make us who we are.
The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs August 4-14, 2016 in Minneapolis. See Unsafe at Any Speed August 4, 6, 7, 11 and 14 at Bryant Lake Bowl. Click here to purchase tickets.
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