Richmond – Waterloo
It doesn’t happen often but today was one of those days when it rained. I don’t mean showers, or the kind of day when, if you time it right, you can get to the shops between the downpours. Today it rained all day, consistently and constantly. Today was a day I’d rather stay in because in a wheelchair you get wetter than most people can image. In a wheelchair your legs and the seat are horizontal giving the rain a good big target and leaving nowhere for the water to go. You also have vertical surfaces like the seat back and your lower legs which collect the water and channel it directly, do not pass go, do not collect $200, into the seat and into your shoes. Using an umbrella just serves to channel the rain in torrents into some unexpected part of your body, or worse still into the electrics which always ends badly.
So public transport on these days is not only nice and convenient, but also essential.
I’m sharing this sorry tale to justify my actions. I honestly don’t like doing it, I genuinely feel bad, but none of this stops me.
When the bus arrived that I was waiting for there was a buggy in the wheelchair space. Not one of the fold up, McLaren, small buggies, but one of those deluxe, off-road travel systems that costs more than a small hatchback and is nearly as big. However bad I may have felt it didn’t stop me taking the buggy’s place on the bus, and turfing mother and vehicle into the bus stop to wait for the next one. Buy more practical buggies people and we can all get along together.
I got to the station platform just as the train was arriving. I said hello to the ramp wrangler with no expectation of being able to catch it. That would have been expecting too much, even for me, but no, he had other ideas. He set off at a sprint towards the ramp, so much so that I couldn’t keep up (my chair does 9mph.. with a following wind.) As he was also the one dispatching the train it was clear that thanks to his efforts I was going to manage to be on this one. This alone is going to cost me a box of chocolates at Christmas.
On the return journey I arranged assistance at the information desk at Waterloo, as I usually do. The process of getting on an off the train went seamlessly, but I learned on the walk to the train what I guess I knew but hadn’t fully appreciated. The wrangler who helped me is one I’m getting to know quite well. She’s a lovely lady, always bright, cheerful and bubbly. She’s also very chatty which makes the whole interaction a pleasant experience. Rather embarrassingly I discovered that I’m one of her favourite customers and I found the reason rather depressing. Apparently I treat her like a human being, I talk to her and, unbelievably, I’m nice. It seems that many people she assists are surly, or treat her “like a porter.”
Come on people, you’re not helping the cause here.
Yes, it might be their job, assisting us might be what they are paid for, but they are providing us disableds a service to make our lives easier. It might be our right to have the same access to transport as everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate those that make it possible and treat them with decency. Remember, these wranglers aren’t the decision makers who decide what access there should, or shouldn’t, be on the network. Don’t take out your frustrations on people who are powerless. If we all build and improve these front-line relationships then we all benefit.
And as if to highlight my point, when I caught the bus for the final leg of my journey home, the driver told me which stop I wanted to get off at, before I could tell him. I’m clearly getting too well known.