A Friday experience

I finally feel ready to write something about my experience on Friday, but only in part.

A siren blasted my ear. Literally, like it were announcing my intention for the next 5 minutes. A beacon strobed in my face to alert those severely hearing impaired enough that they can’t recieve the audio alarm that will be the background song to the audacious manauvure that I want to and need to perform.

The ritual of climbing the stairs has largely been stolen, replaced with a usually smooth, not always silent but always dignified ride on an elevator of some sort, even if that elevation device resembles something off the front of a forked lift truck, a pallet placed on its forks to act as the platform, albeit less stable now than an actual forked lift, weight saved to give more energy to lift. But I digress, because today my movements to ascend are not as secret, not protected by a surrounding wall, because to climb those stairs, I have to use a platform that climbs up the stairs for me.

Its black, saving me from the usual medical beige that afflicts any device designed to help you fit in. But that’s not the issue… Nor is it that the device is shielded from the public using railings… But it’s the fact that I have to be accompanied by someone to do this. I have to have the worlds loudest siren bleating in my ear from its place next to the left apparatus whilst I have an epileptic fit from the strob beacon placed at eye level, announcing to the world: wheelchair user wants to climb the stairs!

I am not allowed to do this alone. Someone, somewhere, decided that there has to be someone on hand always to do the pressing of the buttons. The staff are friendly, many of whom I know professionally and some even personally and they make this as bearable as possible… but I still feel robbed. Pressing that button means for a few minutes during the charade, the musical light show that is the simple task of leaving the station, whilst fellow commuters stare on their own ways home (the concept of this appearing different and worth watching)… Or the other extreme where they look at their shoes and shuffle past, but pressing a seemingly insignificant button puts me in control. It lets me do this myself.

And that makes all the difference, for me. The control of taking myself up stairs. It would be nice if they put the siren and beacon up higher so I didn’t have to get a free hearing impairment and vision blackspots with each use (a prize if you like), your own souvenir of a job done, but not done well…

But the overall thing, is that I have to use this route because builders have blocked off the usually accessible entrance for a few months to do works and this is the solution to get out of the station to my car. Actually not strictly true, as I could choose to wheel down a steep hill, under the road bridge and up a steep hill the other side but for that I need assistance… catch 22 if I ever saw one.

I leave, feeling somewhat conspicuous… and although it worked, I can’t help but feel it could have been done better… Or at least with some form of dignity… But then I’m just grateful it wasn’t a stair creeper from Clapham Juntion on this occassion. I might write that up another day.
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