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!