The Road to Recovery: An everyday tale of wheelchairs, raspberry jam & Campbell’s soup tasters
Now I admit I’ve never tried one. I’m not a great one for soup. There was one nursing auxilliary who always looked greatly offended when I consistently refused the offer of a bowl before dinner while in hospital. That’s because on those rare occasions when I do indulge soup meanz Heinz.
But I must have been missing a culinary delight, one which clearly has to be discussed in the same reverential terms as fine claret. How else to explain the actions of a couple of shoppers I recently encountered at South Woodford’s International Supermarket?
We’d gone there with the intention of buying some jam. Now I know jam and soup might be rather, well, parochial things for an “International Supermarket” to be selling, but alongside a cornucopia of delights from around the world the aforementioned shop actually has a surprisingly good selection of both.
The trouble is to get to the jam, you have to get past the soup. And there, in my way, were too obviously expert food critics discussing the merits of two types of Campbell’s.
Critic one: “I find the tomato ever so slightly passe since they started using Spanish fruit. But the vegetable soup, well. It offers a simply marvelous bouquet. You get splendid notes of carrot, onion and potato and could that be a hint of parsnip in there?”
Critic two: “Darling, I know exactly what you mean. But that’s just the beginning. On the palate there’s a beautiful marriage of all of them, gently mixed together with some vegetable stock. Simply stunning.”
Or something like that. Silly me, then, for daring to interrupt such an important and impassioned debate by daring to ask if I could pass. How selfish of me for using a wheelchair and desiring a small pot of raspberry jam to go with my croissants in the morning.
After all, moving to let me pass would have involved an outrageous imposition: moving two feet (about sixty centimetres if you use metric). And that would have required a brief pause in the debate over the relative merits of the two varieties of Campbell’s soup.
Does this sound ridiculous? It really is, but you get this sort of reaction a great deal when you end up in a wheelchair.
I also wasn’t aware that one of the benefits of my rubbish legs was the power of invisibility. Because an awful lot of people seem to look right through me without seeing me when I’m in the chair. They also appear to lose their hearing. Could you excuse me please? Cue lengthy wait. Louder: Could you excuse me please? Still no responce. ERM, EXCUSE ME. I’D LIKE TO GET AT THE JAMS THANKS.
In the case of the Campbell’s soup experts the third worked when voiced by my mother, a former primary school headmistress who combined it with one of her famous teacher’s glares. She’s used to dealing with stroppy children and and that was how they reacted, their shuffling to one side being accompanied by loud sighs and looks which would have curdled fresh milk. My three-year-old rarely displays such ill grace, even when told that no he can’t spend a whole day stuck in front of CBeebies.
You might say, well it’s not that surprising given that teacher’s glare. And wine tasters often display diva-like behaviour. Why not Campbell’s soup tasters? Except that I’ve met the same response when I’ve been the one asking people to move for me in all sorts of situations, and I’ve never mastered the teacher’s glare trick.
Before this turns into the type rant about the death of British civility one might find in The Spectator, it’s fair to say that not everyone acts like this. I hate using B&Q’s branch at Newbury Park because the staff have been moderately to extremely rude every time we’ve been (although they’ve at least been trained in the art of equal opportunities snottiness). But it’s near, which is a big plus when you’ve a wheelchair and two kids to get in a beaten up Vauxhall Astra.
Fortunately that B&Q’s customers are very different to the staff. On one occasion I got into one of those comical after you, no I insist, after you discussions with a pram pushing mum. In the end I cracked first and made the first move, because we’d have otherwise been there all day. There’ve been other incidents like that too. It’s not even that uncommon to find people offering help, simply and naturally without straying into the territory of being patronising.
It’s also true that some people wander around in a dream world. I know I used to. So much so that I’m ashamed to admit I sometimes didn’t notice people I should have moved out of the way for. But in my defence, I was always, always, apologetic when I finally realised that I had committed a faux pas. There was none of the juvenile tutting or uh uhing as with the soup-tasters.
So for anyone who wants to make life better for disabled people here’s something you can do without even having to put your hands in the wallets. When you see them coming, move out of their bloody way. And if you don’t see them, try at least being a bit polite. It’s really not that hard after all.
To celebrate I’ll get a round of Campbell’s soups in for everyone, shall I?Tagged in: disability, recovery, rehabilitation, road traffic accident, RTA
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