Monday, February 11, 2008

Being Helpful - a little true story

So I'm getting the train home from visiting a friend. I've just had a bit of an argument with the train manager, who had put a different wheelchair user into my pre-booked wheelchair space. I was put into first class as an apology, which went some way towards making me feel better about it (although a similar thing had happened on the way over, where they also forgot to meet me at the platform and I had to lift my chair off the train, so at this point I am generally not happy with First Great Western trains. But I digress, as always). In the process of having insisted that a staff member came onto the train with me to find me a seat and fold my wheelchair, I attracted the attention of the man who's sitting across the aisle from me. He's maybe in his fifties and a bit scruffy for a first class passenger, I think to myself, in my judgemental way (it's all society's fault. I used to be a good socialist who only made judgements about posh-looking people). Anyway, he keeps glancing over at me throughout the forty-minute journey back to Paddington.

Since there are two wheelchair users on the train, the train manager makes an announcement over the tannoy letting us know that he has arranged assistance off the train for us. This is a slightly embarassing moment, but at least he was trying. As we pull into the station, I'm on the phone to my PA, telling her which platform to meet me at. In short, it's quite clear that I have all the help I need in getting off the train. It is therefore extremely irritating, when I stand up and move towards my still-folded wheelchair, to find the slightly scruffy man grabbing it by the handles and going as if to make off with it.

The ensuing conversation goes something like this:

- Please leave that, I say. A staff member is bringing the ramp for me.

- No, he says, It's fine. I work with disabled people. (What I Should Have Said then: So do I...)

- No, really, I say, quite a lot more forcefully this time. I'd rather wait for the staff member with the ramp. (What I Should Have Said instead: Oh, is this your suitcase I'm walking off with? Don't worry. I have professional experience with suitcases.)

He continues to hold on tightly to the handles of my wheelchair. I am now starting to wonder whether I'll have to explain British law in relation to theft of property. Very slowly. I am also in need of getting in my wheelchair, a possibility that has not occurred to this man, who perhaps thinks I'm going to fly off the train.

- It's fine, he says again. I'm happy to help.

- No, REALLY, I say. I don't need any more help. I would REALLY rather wait for the ramp. PLEASE let me have my wheelchair. THANK YOU.

Looking very disappointed at my refusal to except his very very helpful help, he finally gives up and goes away.

I had some conclusions and questions relating to this story, but they were dull. I may or may not recycle them for another day soon. (Have given up on calling things 'part one of two' or promising to write more on something, as I am completely unable to finish anything, ever. Although a series I didn't get round to finishing WILL get done soon.) Night-night, people.


Elizabeth McClung said...

My theory - he was a devo - wanted to "help" you, see you transfer into chair, wanted to push you, wanted to be around chair....mmmmmmm exciting. But then, he could just be an effing loon.

Sweet Cocoa said...

I think he was too self involved to see he was being a pain in the ass. He probably saw your frustration with the train service and felt it was his duty to help you. Either way he should have asked 1st! Maybe he needs some more training! I hope you called the train service when you got back home and gave them a fuss! ttyl, Cocoa