Dead Letter Office
The Handicap

dead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.


Hey big guy, how are things?

Things here are the exact same topsy-turvy that they always are, so I won’t bore you with all that rigmarole. However, something happened semi-recently that got me to thinking, and I wanted to run it by you.

Maybe you remember a few years back, I had laser surgery on my left eye to patch a hole in my retina. It was leaking fluid into my eye, and actually seeped below my skin and I now have a rather unsightly scar under my eye (technically, it isn’t a scar at all, but I don’t really want to get in to the details—suffice it to say it looks like a scar and so for all intents and purposes it is one) to show for the experience.

Anyway, the whole thing was pretty routine, but still—when you have laser surgery on your eye, you tend to at least consider what might happen if something goes wrong. And so I did, and I decided that I would likely wear an eye patch for a while and start the whole Adam Ant fashion revival in earnest. I figured that would be better than having the whole dead fish eye thing going on. At least with the eye patch, I might be able to pick up some curious girls (or perhaps, as it were, the sort who like pirates.)

The surgery went well and healed up perfectly and soon enough, the whole thing was out of my head. Until a couple of months ago...

While I was at my eye doctor for my yearly checkup, he noticed some of the same symptoms that he saw in my left eye—except this time, they were in my right eye. He sent me to the same retina specialist who performed my previous surgery to get checked out. He determined that it was the same condition, but that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the other eye had been, and basically we’ll continue to monitor it for a few months until it either worsens or gets better, and act accordingly. Thus far, it seems like it is getting better however, so keep your fingers crossed and I’ll keep you posted.

So of course, now, all of those same thoughts of going blind entered my head again. But this time, I wasn’t nearly as freaked out. I had been through this before, and besides, the right eye looked like it might be okay all on its own.

But still, these continuing eye problems got me to wondering: What would I do if I went blind? Well, I decided that it would suck, obviously. But somewhere, in my half-waking hours when my mind starts to wander around such topics, I started to think further—what if I could choose my handicap? Would I trade my blindness for something else? Maybe for deafness perhaps?

And to my own surprise, it was really a no-brainer. Of course I would rather be deaf. In a heartbeat. I suppose I was surprised because I have such an affinity for music. It is a consuming passion, and I have spent roughly three-quarters of my life that way. It has gotten me through some tough times, stimulated my mind, been my best friend, my obsession, and more. It is, to some large extent, what I use to define myself. I think in lyrics. I sing relevant passages to myself whether I’m happy, sad, bored, in love, and every other emotion in-between. It makes me Todd. It is ingrained in my DNA.

But come on, man... my eyes? How could I go through the rest of my life in the dark? How could I never see another human face again—my friends, family, and loved ones? Hell, I’d even miss strangers. And movies. Comic books. How could I never see the world again? A picture is worth a thousand words after all. In terms of that mathematical equation alone, I’d have to choose to be deaf. It only makes logical sense.

But God, no music. Ever.

I guess what I’m thinking about now is changing my way of thinking. Maybe neither one of these scenarios is ever going to happen. But I am starting to think that my personal identification with music should change. It has to change. I need to be my own person first, defined by my own actions and history and personality. My identity needs to be my own. And sure, music can and should be a big part of that. Of course it will be. But not like this, not like it has been.

Because otherwise, who is ever going to think these things about never seeing my face again?

Anyhow, take care of yourself and try to stay cool. I’m off to start being Todd.

Your man in the Midwest,

By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2005-06-13
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