A foray into the world of the invisible classes

22nd May 2012: I’m thrown into a new, until now undiscovered, by me at least, world. A broken femur leads to 3 days in hospital, a metal rod, three screws, and two crutches for (I’m told) between 2 and 4 months. And then I’m spat back out, to discover a world where two legs are most definitely better than four.

Let’s fast forward a bit to today. 27th Jun 2012. I’m still on two crutches. I have another month before my next X-Ray, which means at least another month on them, and I’ve learnt one hell of a lot about what it means to be on crutches, to become one of an invisible class of people – those with some kind of permanent, or as in my case, temporary, disability.

To be dependent on someone is one thing. To be unable to carry things in your hands, to need help with making your dinner because it takes forever to move a few steps across the kitchen with something from the fridge. To need someone to carry the rubbish downstairs, or to bring the shopping up. Even to do the shopping (I can only give thanks for online grocery shopping here). That’s all stuff that, for a fiercely independent person such as myself, is a bit of a pain in the backside. I can live with that though.

What I’m really struggling to come to terms with is the reaction of others around me. The bus driver this morning; he drove off before I’d sat down. I’m reliably told they have a motto “find a seat or I’ll find one for you”. That’s despicable. It’s my left leg that’s broken, and I did find the first seat on the right hand side of the bus so I could stretch in to the aisle. If that is genuinely what goes through a bus driver’s head, they don’t deserve their Olympic bonuses, let alone their normal salaries in my opinion. On the way to the tube station later on, it’s quite apparent that people almost walk closer to you when you have crutches, and don’t think to get out the way, leaving you to either bump into them, risking toppling over, or trying to side step, which believe it or not is nigh on impossible on two long sticks attached to your arms. My personal space invaded, and a complete lack of respect for the amount of space required to manoeuvre that I’ve never experienced before this accident. Don’t think this is a one-off either. This is normal day to day London.

The journey home this evening, and the debacle only gets worse. No one, I repeat no one, on the bus moved to let me sit down when I got on. No one moved when I asked to sit down. Still no one moved when I asked a second time, and when I demanded a seat the third time, one chap decided it was sufficient not to get up, but to apologise on behalf of the guy sitting in front of him with an empty seat next to him (which I couldn’t get at) saying he couldn’t speak English. SO WHY DIDN’T YOU GET THE FUCK UP INSTEAD, TWAT?!

Amazingly, it doesn’t end there. I get to the Overground station at Shepherds Bush, up the lift to the bridge, down the lift to the platform at the other side, and there’s a train at the platform. As I leave the lift, the driver looks at me, closes the doors and pulls the train out of the station. He looked at me, and chose to ignore that I was there.

I’m incensed enough by the way Londoners clearly treat each other to write this, in the hope that it eases my mind having written down my experiences. It’s atrocious that people can’t take a little time to look at what is going on around them and behave appropriately. I’ve had people barge straight into my leg without so much as an apology, or just stand on my feet, look at me and shrug their shoulders. If that happened and I was standing up, with no crutches, I’d have got an apology. Now? Nothing.

I hope someone senior at TFL reads this. I hope someone at each and every one of the bus companies that operate in London reads this. And I hope that those people that have behaved like rabid animals around myself, or around others with disabilities who need space and time to get around, read this. For everyone else, please take a moment to consider what you take for granted in this world, and what it would mean not to be able to do those things that you consider “normal”.