In a late night dash for home, it occurred to me that there was no milk in the fridge and so a short detour was called for. A pint of milk for the necessity of morning tea would surely be possible, and it was.
At the till, while I waited for someone to take my money, I thought I’d use the time productively and started fumbling in my bag for the trusty monocular. I was just putting it round my neck when the cashier pitched up.
“Are you going bird watching?” he asked, pointing at the monocular.
“Oh, no, buses,” I mumbled.
“Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s dark outside. You wont’ see any birds at this time of night.”
“I’m not a twitcher.” I thought that would knock this conversation on the head.
“A bird watcher then. There are no birds now. It’s dark outside. That’s what I’m saying.”
“No. I’m definitely not a bird watcher. If I was looking for birds I’d probably have binoculars. That’s like this only two stuck together, one for each eye. This is what I use to see if there is a bus coming down the road because I can’t see very well.”
“Nah,” he said incredulously. “buses are huge. You don’t need binoculars to see a bus.”
I ploughed on in the spirit of my chum the Septic Tank. I would adopt her approach and see this as an opportunity to explain sight loss to the world, one cashier at a time. ” I can’t see very much, at all,” I said. “In fact I can’t even see a bus coming up the road, so I use this to spot buses coming and when they get close enough I can use it to read the bus numbers.”
The cashier puffed out his cheeks and exhaled through pursed lips. “Cash or card?”
I slapped my card down on the reader and waited for the bleep.
“it’s dark outside. You aren’t gonna see any birds in the dark.”
“I’m not a bird watcher.” I might have been a bit strident at this point. “I’m looking for a bus.”
“Well, you’re not gonna see too many of them round here at this time of night.”
“I travel hopefully,” I said.
After a short pause he lent forward and asked, “have you got a problem with your eyes then if you can’t see a bus coming down the road?”
“Yes. I have a problem with my eyes.”
“Because you look like a bird watcher…..”
“it’s definitely an eye thing not a bird thing.” I might have exceeded strident at this point.
“…In that hat,” he finished.
Taking a moment out from putting my purse back in my bag, I patted myself on the head for a reason I can’t explain.
A silence hung between the cashier and me, which he felt obliged to fill. “Yep. I would say you look exactly like the kind of person that would be a bird watcher. You’ve got a bird watching face.” he said opening his arms wide and smiling.
Was he being funny? Had I just revealed myself as an old bird without humour? Or was it that he just blurted out the first thing that came into his head? Either way, telling someone that they have a bird watching face is not much of a get out clause. I was prepared to let it go, and left.
On the street I checked Google to see when my bus was due. He was right about something. You don’t see too many buses about at this time of night. I put my monocular away, pulled my hat down low and plodded off home.