I had to psych myself up. Take a deep breath. Work out if it was the most economical route or the quickest route or whatever but would it get me there, problem free.
Its not going by foot path nor bus – its tube – an arch-nemesis of the wheelchair user. I’m going to use 3 different lines, change at two stations – to get to my train home.
Its not an impossible task – but its one that takes a little bit of judgement, a little bit of thought and a chunk of confidence. And attitude – one of those that says “f*** you to people in your way.
I wasn’t alone either – I had my manager with me, so I had to do this properly or apologise in advance to him for the monster I know I can turn into.
Waterloo to Liverpool Street, peak Friday night rush hour. Waterloo – Green Park – Kings Cross – Liverpool Street. Flat access. I knew I could do it – I just had to go for it.
I kicked off on the Jubilee Line westbound for Stanmore. Two stops up to Green Park on a mildly busy train. It was warm but bearable. Step free, totally. Off at Green Park and up in the lift, my aim next was the Victoria Line. Wheeling (keeping right) up the uphill stretch in the interchange tunnel to turn left to exit and the lifts – downhill. This is at first gentle – for 5 metres – then steep for 5, then long and reasonable for another 150 metres. I did the only thing any lunatic would do – I said excuse me to clear a way and ran humming the brakes down hill, hitting an easy 8MPH as my chair was allowed to succumb to the lure of Law of Gravity. The Xenon rolls so much more quieter, smoother, neater than the old Quickie Q2 HP, less of a thump as I hit the gap between the tiles on the floor.
Slam the brakes on, turn left, roll through to the lifts – my manager had thankfully kept up. On to the Victoria Line – the first train crammed and jammed and the second train little better. But I got the second train – able to get into the wheelchair space and park too, a miracle in itself, as most people are surprised to find a wheelchair user outside of the Jubilee Line, let alone on the tube.
Jump off (not literally – flat access again) at Kings Cross and switch to the Met. Using the long tunnels, people keep walking 6 abreast and slowly, causing me to get fed up – something I have to live with until a gap opens and I can get moving again, my chair taking little effort to get to speed to enable me to move swiftly to the lift, taking it to the exit and out to go to the Circle, Northern and Met. Masses of people, most of whom don’t know where they are going. Through the ticket halls and into the CNM, pushing now to get to the platforms, holding a position and letting others make their mistakes of walking into my path – that pre-meditated aim for the lift which takes me the lines where a Met train for Aldgate is waiting.
I rolled on board. These trains are new. Flat access. Air conditioning. Success. I took it to Liverpool Street – success bound for me as I am one train away from being on my train home. And it all looked so easily done, written down.
But the pre-meditation, planning, thought, mental cajoling to get there was totally invisible. But it was there. Took me all of half a second to know I would go for it. It was a round about way to get from Waterloo to Liverpool Street – but I did it.
One small roll for me – one giant wheelie for my kind.
I got to Liverpool Street, my journey spend admiring how I could see the length of the train start to finish and rolled off, out and up the short slope to head for the exit gates – my train 10 minutes away and leaving me enough time to get something to eat and book my assistance onwards.
Proof too, that I have a new choice open to me instead of a bus or taxi. Just like many others.