It’s Another Bloody Bus Story!

It’s another bloody bus story! Actually the bus part of the story features fairly minimally because the bus I was on – heading back home after a long day’s work – broke down and we all had to get off it while an engineer came from somewhere miles away to try and fix the problem.
It was a half an hour wait for the next bus and the engineer would be at least half an hour before he turned up. I decided that because I was only a 15 minute walk away from my house that it would be a good idea to walk the rest of the journey. So I headed off the bus with everyone else and started walking.

I was quite glad to be getting away from my bus companions because there was a number of small, noisy children with parents who were either very apathetic or very deaf; so I wasn’t bothered about having to walk, in fact I was looking forward to it because it was a good excuse to use my Satnav
(see this post if you were unfortunate and missed my lovely satnav post).

I’d only taken a few steps when the bus driver shouted at me to stop. I turned back round. “You can’t walk” he shouted, “you’ll have to wait till the next bus”. I was a bit confused by this statement, given that, in my opinion, I’d been doing a pretty good approximation of walking before he’d stopped me; it’d been taking me from A-to-B so I assume I’D been doing it right. I explained to him – over the increasingly louder screaming children – that I only lived about fifteen minutes walk away and that I knew the way back home. The bus driver protested, saying it was too dangerous for me to walk. I reciprocated by pointing out that I’d walked the route before, I knew the way and I wanted to get home in fifteen minutes rather than 45 minutes, especially since I was getting pretty desperate for the toilet. I then cheerily thanked him for his concern and assured him that I’d be fine and started to walk off again. The bus driver shouted at me to stop. I turned my head around and shouted back that I was fine and continued to walk. one of the waiting bus passengers ran up to me and took hold of me. I tried to once again assure the bus driver and now the passenger that I would be fine but the passenger cut across me: “If you walk then I’ll call the police!” The police? I started laughing at the absurdity of all this and once again attempted to explain that I was fine and that this was starting to get a bit over-the-top. The passenger’s response to this was to take hold of me with even greater force and say in a very sympathetic tone, “look, you’re blind son”. I didn’t point out the paradox of that statement; instead I told him that I was fully aware that I was blind. Sadly, he didn’t then immediately let go of me and say, “o right, sorry, well just as long as you know; I’ll let you go on your way now then”.

What could I do? By this point, other passengers were joining the scene and some screaming children came over to see what was going on. I should have stood my ground which I suppose is actually exactly what I did do in a very literal sense because I didn’t move. I ended up waiting for half an hour with the screaming children and a load of very condescending passengers, who tried to take my mind off my aggravation at the situation by distracting me with a litany of questions about my blindness: “how long have you been blind?” “how much can you see?” “how did you become blind?” “how many fingers am I holding up?” “where’s your carer?” … So I was essentially held hostage and then interrogated under the torture of bladder pain.

Then to add insult to injury, an old age pensioner (not one of the young ones under 60 – an old age pensioner) turned to the waiting crowd and announced, “actually, I only live ten minutes away so I might as well walk home rather than pointlessly waiting for twenty minutes”. The crowd parted and let him through as he nonchalantly walked past me and headed off whistling in the direction that I was going in which was apparently “too dangerous”. Then another man spoke up and said that he too would rather walk than wait and again the crowd parted and let him walk in the same direction. To add further insult to injury, this man was walking with a crutch.

Fortunately I did eventually get home, although I was a bit concerned that they might not have let me get off the bus by myself and insisted I ordered a taxi to take me the 215 yards from the bus stop to my house (I really am too obsessed with the Satnav).

When I did get home I was so relieved to be finally able to go to the toilet and far too hungry to brood too much about the whole situation. I do however feel annoyed and upset that out of a bus load of passengers, not one of them seemed to think that it was completely inappropriate and ignorant to refuse me the right to walk a fifteen minute route just because it happened to involve a main road, despite my confidence and anything I said.

I’ve told this story to a few people and all of my friends think it’s a bit out-of-order, although one old woman I met on the bus afterwards who was present at the scene said “that was really nice of them to be so concerned; real community spirit”. I wanted to punch her.

I hope that you can see why I’m so appalled by what happened and you’re not thinking like that old woman and those passengers. This to me indicates the very apparent existence of the negative stereotypes about blind people that indicate why there are so many unemployed blind people.

A few days ago I was crossing a road and an old woman pulled me back. “no! you’re going the wrong way!” she shrieked in my ear. I informed her that I was not going the wrong way, but she continued to pull at me and shrieked again with more defiance “no, you don’t go that way!” I asked her what on earth she was going on about. “I’ve seen you do this journey before and you always turn right; you don’t cross this road. Come on, I’ll take you the right way!” I hope you appreciate that I do try and be as polite as I can in these situations when what I really want to do is punch these people. I explained to her that I usually go the other way because I usually go somewhere different to the place that I’m going to today, so therefore today I need to go a different way to get to the different place. There was a pause, then she said, “o, Ok”. I thought that she would now let go of me and I could be on my way but she kept hold of me and insisted that she took me across the road, then persisted to insist that she walked the whole journey with me, holding on to me and walking very slowly. Before she eventually left me she said to me in a sympathetic tone, “I understand what it’s like; my dad was just like you”. She then gave me a sweet and walked off leaving me to feel confused and a bit shit. She might have meant that I was like her dad because we are both extremely good looking, intelligent or amazingly funny, but I think it’s more likely that she meant that we were both blind, and this obviously makes us identical.

I hope you can see why this riles me so much. If this happened once in a while then it might be Ok but there’s always something every day that suggests that people think I’m incapable of functioning on anything remotely resembling a “normal” level. If you’ve read my other posts about various problems with getting work because of people’s attitudes to blindness then hopefully you can see why my aggravation compounds. However, if I don’t want people to view me purely as “blind” then I suppose I should probably stop writing about it; so here ends my rant.

In other news: The new series of the young’uns podcast is coming very soon; This means regular Young’uns podcast episodes. I’m planning on recording podcasts at all the festivals we do so that should be a really good summer run. I’ve also put down the satnav and made a start on the next Pick and Mix

Thanks for reading; I know it’s only because I’m blind! Byeeeeee!

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I have an addiction

I’m writing this blog post from a really hot bus – that’s “hot” as in the temperature not “hot” as in sexually alluring, I’m not particularly attracted to busses; well, apart from the 93 from Middlesbrough to Scarborough, but then who wouldn’t be? As regular readers will know-ever the optimist-I tend to write my blog entries from busses on the way to and from work, which gives me plenty of writing time since I spend 4 hours a day on them. Although I haven’t blogged for a while, I have still been doing a lot of bus travel. The reason for my lack of bus based blogging is to do with a newly acquired gadget that I’ve been using addictively. It’s a satnav. It may seem a little strange that I should be using a Satnav at all given that I am blind and can’t drive, never mind the fact that I use it on a bus, but this particular satnav is especially designed for blind people. Rather than the satnav voice just telling you to turn left or right like the boring satnavs you bland sighted people use, blind satnavs are much more exciting; not only do they give directions but they announce all the street names and the types of buildings you pass. On a practical level, the satnav has in all honesty revolutionised my life. I can now travel to new places all by myself without needing to know the route or continuously ask people for directions. It also means that I don’t have to ask people to tell me when we get to the bus stop I want to get off at, and any technological device that reduces the need to talk to pesky people is obviously very worthwhile. To try and put the amazingness of the satnav into perspective: I visited my friend Ben recently in York. By the help of the satnav I located Newcastle train station, then got off the train in York and walked a 20 minute walk in a completely unfamiliar area to be successfully guided to Ben’s house. I can even record my own landmarks such as bus stops so that I know exactly how to get to places that aren’t on the standard map installed on the satnav.

So it does have immense practical value. However, I must confess that I have been using it needlessly to the point of it being an addiction. When I’m being driven to places by a friend or in a taxi, I will turn on the satnav and listen intently to the names of the streets. During this quality time with the satnav I tend not to join in with conversation around me and ignore what people are saying to me. I seem to find street names more interesting than the nonsense my friends go on about. I suppose it’s the thrill of the whole thing-the adventure: Will we turn left on Bernard street or right on to Albert Street? I can feel my heart rate increase as we get closer to the turn, as the anticipation builds. I’m sure you all know the feeling. Just writing about it makes me feel excited! It’s not just the street names that I get though (although this would be enough excitement for anyone) I also get the speed, distance travelled, distance from my various landmarks (such as my pre-programmed bus stops) and of course the all important altitude.

But my addiction doesn’t stop there. I see no reason why I should stop addictively using my satnav just because of a small factor like the fact that I’m not actually travelling. The makers of the satnav have created their product with the crazed addict in mind. I can sit in the comfort of my own home while stationary, without the need for GPS coverage and replay the routes that I have previously travelled using the virtual mode. So I can be sitting in my home in Hartlepool and relive the rollercoaster of a journey that was the trip from my house to the venue that I did a gig at in Peterborough a fortnight ago: Every twist and every turn, every rise and drop in altitude, the increases and decreases in speed is mine to relive now and forever, over and over again. When I have children, instead of bedtime stories, we can go on virtual adventures together, reliving journey’s taken in year’s gone by: “This is your mother walking down the isle at 2.7 miles per hour at an altitude of 50 feet. She walks the 18 yard walk then makes an 172 degrees turn to face me”.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. I’m not merely limited to reliving the epic voyages taken in my past; I can also explore new routes that I’ve never taken before without having to actually bother leaving the house. I can programme in any destination and any starting point, which means I could travel from Buckingham Palace to the Blackpool tower without having to leave my house. Genius!

I must apologise for anyone who has travelled with me over the last couple of weeks for not listening to anything they’ve been saying and interrupting their attempts to converse with me with a cavalcade of stats about our speed, distance altitude, the names of the streets and the distance we are at any given time from any given bus stop in the area. It’s come as a bit of a shock to me, but not everyone seems to share my enthusiasm for these comprehensive commentaries-the continuously updating unexpurgated minutiae of the journey.

Perhaps I should mention the name of the Satnav and then this will constitute a professionally written review of the product. The company might even use this blog post as part of their literature. I see know reason why not.
It’s the Trekker Breeze from Humanware.

Unfortunately, the satnav addiction has not only affected my ability to blog but also my work on the next David Eagle’s Pick and Mix which I have yet to start.

This is David Eagle, travelling at a speed of 32 miles per hour at an altitude of 72 ft, signing off. O no! I can’t stop myself! Help!

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