There is something cringingly uncomfortable about making your mistakes in public: I have a long and distinguished experience of being the subject of public amusement. It’s not a comfortable place to be. Not looking or behaving like other people’s assumptions, of how I should look or behave, has landed me in some testing situations.
Getting off a bus one day, the door opened next to a concrete bollard that was invisible against the pavement. The bus driver didn’t believe I had a sight impairment so thought he would put his theory to the test with a spot of strategic parking. Pivotting on a bollard is surprisingly painful. It’s also extremely funny to the casual onlooker in a kind of slapstick way. The queue of people waiting to get on the bus couldn’t help themselves. They laughed until they cried while I dangled over the top of the bollard with a pain in my stomach like I’d just been punched.
On a trip to the cinema I elected to cross at the zebra crossing just outside the cinema. When I got there a van was parked on the crossing. I asked the driver to move his van. The gist of what he said was that he would not. I explained the problem and asked him if he would give me a hand crossing the road. The gist of what he said next was that he would not. The gist of what I said cannot be repeated before I walked back down the road only to find myself back at the crossing, on the other side of the road and the van gone.
A car pulled up and sat stubbornly on the crossing. The traffic wasn’t moving. I walked round the back of the car. What I didn’t know was that it was pulling a trailer. I discovered this hidden gem because my right knee, then my left knee, got caught on the tow rope and over I went. The woops and cheers, honking and pointing demanded nothing less than a bow and two fingers to the driver.
Clapham High Street has a wide selection of crossing points. They are loved by pedestrians and cyclists alike. If you are crossing the road and estimate that you have only seconds to go before the lights change and the traffic recommences its merciless progression, the last thing you want is to find yourself knocked off your feet by a cyclist taking the opportunity to nip to the pavement on the other side of the road or dodge the waiting traffic and plough on regardless of pedestrians. In Waterloo Road, cyclists have started travelling in packs across crossings.
A despatch rider who stopped me on a zebra crossing to ask me the way. Cane in hand I explained that I might not be the best person to ask on account of not seeing much, but I’d have a go if he was willing to take a chance. The gist of what he said was that he wondered if I was trying to be funny. The gist of what I said was “No”. The gist of what he said was that I should not mock the blind. Very politely I explained the situation. He said, “I’m an idiot,” and rode off.
Going across a crossing with a friend of mine who is a long cane user, a man walked up the entire length of my friend’s cane until they were nose to nose. The gist of what what the man said cannot be repeated but was along the lines of “people like you should not be out in public”. An unwitting flick of the wrist silenced the man. The gist of what my friend said was “people like that should not be out in public.”