2014,  Uncategorized

On Principle

I’m going to a thing in Oxford for two hours tomorrow. And as I almost always do I’m getting the train.

You can just turn up and request assistance and sometimes I do that.  But given that almost always I know I’m travelling the day before I book my assistance.  Usually I travel on the times I’ve booked but if I’m travelling between stations where they know me and I know them it’s not overly unusual for me to use the booking as a heads up that I’ll be around and maybe get a train slightly earlier or slightly later than I’m booked on.

So I rang up today and booked assistance.  I must have rung that number hundreds of times and I know it without looking up or even having to think. Sometimes when they answer the phone I know who it is before they say “hello assisted travel line so and so speaking how can I help.” And one of the guys whose quite high up there had a lot to do with making some special arrangements for me has been known to go “oh I thought it was you” when I tell him it’s Emma Crees.  We’ve never met, we’ve just spoken so many times.

I’m talking to the person on the phone and I’m checking with her: “what time does that train get in?…and the one before?.. I better get that one thanks” and trying to figure it out because one gets in about five minutes too late and the other is earlier than I’d like.  Really I’d like one sort of inbetween the two.  Anyway she checks their info on me is right and goes through the details of my journey.  A lot of their usual spiel of “make yourself known to a member of staff” to which if I’m travelling locally I’m like yeah they already know me and please try and arrive X amount early she skips because she can see from her system that I know it.

“that’s all booked for you and you’ll receive an email with the details. Did you want to take your reference number?”

I said no knowing that the email would be there practically before we’d said goodbye. Thanked her and hung up.

The email with the details was there when I finally went online several hours later.  It said the usual. Travelling from X at Y time to Z place arriving at… and that I’m a wheelchair user and need the ramps.

But then I laughed a lot.

Because it said:

Assistance entering station-arriving by other,
Assistance at station for boarding,
Wheelchair user requiring ramps at origin station,
TAKE TO WHEELCHAIR AREA
Assistance at station for alighting,
Wheelchair user requiring ramps at destination station,
Assistance departing station by other,
TAKE FROM WHEELCHAIR AREA

And the same for my return journey:
Assistance entering station-arriving by other,
Assistance at station for boarding,
Wheelchair user requiring ramps at origin station,
TAKE TO WHEELCHAIR AREA
Assistance at station for alighting,
Wheelchair user requiring ramps at destination station,
Assistance departing station by other,
TAKE FROM WHEELCHAIR AREA

I realise that this is someone who hasn’t realised what they’ve actually written and that’s part of what makes it funny. But it really does make me sound more like some form of cargo to be transported rather than a wheelchair user needing a little bit of help.  It’s the ALL CAPS I think.

I could write a blog about how inappropriate that is.  I could rant and rave about how it’s depersonalisation and it’s objectification and it’s ableism and it’s all sorts of stuff. I posted this on facebook a couple of hours ago and I think at least one of my friends is expecting me to post an angry rant.

Like so many things I could get angry. I could make a complaint. I could call it othering and apply models of disability and terms and all sorts of things. I could spend two hours and write five thousand words about how my day was ruined by seeing those words in an email and how I just don’t think I can call that assisted travel helpline again.

But really? I’d almost guarantee it’s just a silly mistake.  And all it did was make me laugh and roll my eyes.

Someone said to me recently (about something else) that principle is an expensive word.  I’d never thought of that before but I liked it.  I’d take it a step further.  I’d say it’s a word that’s important but it sucks time and energy and as well as taking money it can make us feel bad when we don’t do things we feel we should.

On principle, I should probably complain about that.  But I’ve better things to do

On principle, it’s an inappropriate thing to say.  But it was a mistake

On principle, it’s giving an impression it shouldn’t. But it made me laugh.

So my principle is I will always, always, always complain when I need to.  But I also let things go whenever possible.  Because that makes your actual complaints more powerful.  And laughing, forgetting about something and moving on if I is much less costly to me than anything

2 Comments

  • Angela Harding

    Love it just love it. You were wondering about your wisdom the following is soooowise Principle is an expensive word. I’d never thought of that before but I liked it. I’d take it a step further. I’d say it’s a word that’s important but it sucks time and energy and as well as taking money it can make us feel bad when we don’t do things we feel we should.

    This statement is worthy to be posted all over the place

    Only yesterday I was counselling someone who has been short changed at work. ACCAS suggested small claims court. I said,”if you have the time and £60 do it for the fun of it BUT if you take it seriously it will make you feel bad.”

    By the way what does TAKE FROM WHEELCHAIR AREA mean?

  • Arabel

    Principle is an expensive word…brilliant. How are you doing w Anna Karenina? Looking forward to your review of White Teeth xx

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