Saturday, March 13, 2010

People: the Good, Bad & Ugly

I've been to London three times this week, on crutches, and have alternately enjoyed and hated the experience every few minutes. Because of people:

The Good: the woman in a Clapham Junction coffee shop, who leapt out of her seat to haul open the door for me saying, "Been there myself, love. Know just what you're going through"; the man on an increasingly crowded train who growled "crutches" at anyone who tried to sit on a seat occupied by my foot (I would have happily made space, but I appreciated his care); the railwayman at Clapham who unlocked the staff loos to save me walking to the other end of the platform; the man who carried my coffee; the Sussex taxi-driver who waited an hour (until 12.45am) for my delayed train; the people who offered me their hard-won seats; the handsome Naval officer who treated me to two hours of enjoyable conversation (started on the subject of my crutches) and who escorted me to my destination (Hi, Tim).

The Bad: the people who barged into me, stepped in front of me, plonked themselves on the seats I was aiming for; all the other people who simply didn't notice; the colleague who kept me talking for twenty minutes in Waterloo station while I stood on one foot; the people who stared (they're only crutches for gawd's sake);

The Ugly: the man who kicked a crutch out from under me on Victoria concourse, and walked on without even registering what he'd done - I like to think his shin registered it, but he didn't break stride; the fit forty-something in the disabled seat on a packed tube, who held my gaze and did not move...

You'll notice there are far more Goods, than Bads & Uglies put together, but I think that's because gems stand out in the muck. My lasting memory is one of others' indifference. Which I think is sad.

Thanks for all messages of support! Ankle getting better, albeit slowly - small improvement every day. Am now able to hobble without crutches in the house, but am taking things very carefully! Scotland beckons.


Anonymous said...

Some people are just plain rude, obviously manners weren't an option in the house they were brought up in.

But, the goods definitely outweigh the bads and uglies which has to be a step in the right direction of a decent human society.

CJ xx

Queenie said...

Life looks different when you're on crutches, doesn't it? I think indifference is part of the London experience, crutches or no crutches. Where I live people smile and speak, try that in London and you get a very wide berth. My worst experience was trying to get on a Routemaster bus with my crutches, and the conductor rang the bell for the driver to take off - which he duly did - when I had one foot on the pavement and one on the bus platform. A couple of nice people picked me out of the gutter, and I was only a bit bruised.

The one thing I might take issue with in your post is the 'fit forty-something' who may in fact have been suffering from e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or lupus. The great thing about crutches is that they are visible, even if some people ignore them. It's harder for people who don't have any outward sign of the enormous pain and fatigue they experience every minute of every day.

Glad you're on the mend!

Bernadette said...

Very brave of you to travel round on crutches!

From my own similar experiences, I do think the goods outweigh the bads, though the bads are still far too numerous.
However, I don't actually agree with Queenie that London is worse than other places - there are just more people and it can be difficult to notice those who may need help or just a bit of extra space. Don't get me started on the experiences I've had with rural buses and walking sticks...
Anyway, glad to hear you're up and about and I hope you make it to Scotland soon.

Debs said...

Glad that the good outweighed the bad and that you're on the mend. I've never had to use crutches, which is a relief as they look pretty awkward.

HelenMHunt said...

I think you were very brave to venture to London at all in the circumstances.

Leigh said...

Crystal Jigsaw - Yes, good manners (or lack of them) has a lot to do with it... once people have noticed there's a problem!

Queenie - I confess I hadn't considered the possibility of forty-something having a hidden ailment (despite having suffered this way myself at other times), but he looked pretty sprightly when he got off...

Bernadette - I think anywhere people are squashed together, they tend to ignore one another; it's a way of dealing with the discomfort of proximity. That's not to say that they're any kinder to each other when given more space, but I do find big cities particularly inhuman in this respect.

Debs - Practice makes perfect, sadly, and this is the fourth time I've been on crutches (third for this ankle). I can move pretty quickly when I need to!

Helen - Well, work is work, innit? No sick pay when you're self-employed and all that. Last weekend had its own motivations: I wasn't going to let a poorly ankle keep me away from a girls' day out!

Denise said...

I'm glad the lovely people won the day. I've had some similar experiences recently, and it's often the grumpiest looking people who turn out to be the nicest.

I tend to imagine something unpleasant happening to the inconsiderate ones. Cruel, but makes me feel better!

womagwriter said...

Glad to hear you are on the mend. Some people just don't think, do they? I've had people watch me struggling trying to open a shop door with one hand while pushing Mum's wheelchair with the other...

Hmm, is the handsome Tim likely to be reading this blog then? ;-)

Troy said...

Let's hope the fit forty-something doesn't "mind the gap" next time he gets on or off the Tube.
Mrs Troy loves the film "Falling Down" starring Michael Douglas, where the meek man finally loses his cool and shoots all the "bads and uglies". The UK would be so much nicer with just the 40million+ "goods" in it, wouldn't it?
(Just off to Google "lupus" now).

LilyS said...

I'm glad there were more good than bad but it still amazes me how rude some people can be... and how lovely people are as well. Get well soon :)

Leigh said...

Denise - You're right. It's odd about grumpy-looking people, but they often surprise with a smile!

Womag - God, I often get that with the buggy, but a wheelchair...?

Troy - Mrs Troy and I are in agreement. I can imagine the "Falling Down" situation happening - the opening is especially plausible!

Lily - Thank you! Am well on the mend now.

J.J. said...

Only just found your blog! Interesting reading about your stint on crutches; I am currently on them after a bad car crash at the end of June which resulted in a broken femur. Non-weight bearing for 3 months!!! so think yourself lucky ;-) You're brave going to London on them, I'd be scared of being knocked over. I'm pleased to hear that the 'good's outnumbered the bad's and uglies though.

Hubby and I are great Scotland lovers, in fact he is moving up there on Saturday! so I sympathised with you; I hope you got your hiking holiday ok!

All the best