A sign of our times or simply reality?
Through illness, my husband and I have been rather housebound/ home area constricted for several years. No longer able to be ‘what used to be’, i.e. hosts at the family home for Christmas, we felt we could, at last, manage to visit our family for the annual celebrations this year. This meant a trip to the airport and a flight out of the country. This, in itself, was quite daunting but our enthusiasm for the trip won the day and arrangements were made.
We decided to go the easiest way and travelled to the airport by taxi. Maybe that was our first mistake as we both caught dreadful coughs (which, after a few days, spoiled the visit) from contact with the virally ill driver who should have been tucked up in bed! He obviously felt he needed to work despite being ill, but we had only just recovered when it was time to return home. Fortunately no one else in the family became ill, which was a source of concern for us.
We had booked a collection, with the same firm, for our return journey. However, after an hour searching at our homeward destination airport in cold wind and rain, and questioning every taxi driver waiting, we decided that our return booking had been lost in his viral ' fog'.
As if to put salt in the wounds, my relatively new iPhone decided to use our travelling day not to work. On this was all my contact numbers etc. However, it simply ignored any request and, bizarrely, kept turning itself on and off as if to mock! Despite being charged, it would not stay on long enough to do anything. The sense of isolation when we were stranded at the airport with no mobile was quite a revelation. How odd, I thought, considering that I grew up before mobile phones were invented and had used public transport in those years. But, then, I was young and well and with a simple diary, had not relied on electronic devices to hold information or a car to take me about.
I have never had a phone which failed in this way before so did not expect this to happen.
We had now to find a way to travel the remaining 40+ miles to our home.
There was a coach to our nearest town. I went as fast as my breathlessness would allow, to purchase the tickets while my husband looked after the luggage. I'd been assured I had enough time, but the coach left without us, even though I had spoken with the driver, there were no other passengers on the coach and I was within the time frame given. I insisted on a refund at the booking office and asked about an alternative bus. The alternative service was obviously provided by a different bus company, and the first coach firm's employees did not appear to know anything about it – either in ignorance, lack of interest and caring, by design or loyalty. Who knows?
But, being of a persistent nature, and after a cup of much needed coffee, I found out what I needed and we arrived at the appropriate bus stop.
With one other man, of maybe slightly younger age than us, we waited in the continuing cold and rain, while the bus driver smoked (not allowed) in his seat on the empty bus. Then, he left for a while, shutting the bus door. Now, call me old fashioned, but I really don't believe a breathless old woman, a weak legged, rather frail old man, and a quiet pensioner, all trying to find a way home, could seriously be regarded as posing any security threat.
Such is the present climate of general suspicion and consequent rules. We had to stay outside the bus.
Eventually, my husband was directed to put our one bag of luggage into the luggage compartment, the strong, sprung door of which nearly knocked him flying. The driver was a youngish man, but no help was offered, and he gave no flicker of response when I quietly said, while paying the fare, 'Hmm, no help for the aged, then?'
As ours was the only luggage, retrieving it was a challenge as my husband had virtually to climb into the deep compartment under the bus to reach the bag, which had made its way to the very rear en route. Again, no help was given or even offered.
Maybe it was the company rules not to assist anyone, maybe 'health and safety' decreed that no luggage should be lifted by staff, maybe he simply did not care or notice, or maybe it is simply a ‘sign of the times’. Maybe it has always been so and I haven’t known, or maybe this is the first time I have felt and been vulnerable as an ‘old’ woman unprotected and out in the community.
Anyway, I did not contact the taxi firm who didn't remember our booking, and I shall not use them again.
We neither of us like fuss or to cause problems, but when you are in your seventies, rather frail having been very ill, just a little help really does go a very long way. Nothing major, you understand, but just an extra hand and a little consideration.
We all have belief systems, and in my life and work as a Doctor, I have always tried to treat people as I would wish to be treated if I were in similar circumstances. When I write my poems ( see my poetry books), I continue my therapeutic work through the written word.
On the positive side, it made us realize that, despite several years of isolation, pain, breathlessness and near death, we still have our ‘Yorkshire grit’, and retain some or our former resilience.
There was a redeeming end to the journey.
We had a taxi for the last 15 miles, and the taxi driver was a courteous kind man, who got out of the car and lifted the bag from the boot with a smile and without having to be asked. We arrived home exhausted and a few hours late, but a kind friend had thought to buy us some emergency provisions for our return, which were waiting in the porch.
I nearly kissed our front door. As yet, several days later, I have not wished to leave it again.
But, in fairness, it is winter and the weather is bleak!
However, tiny cyclamens are out in the garden, time always moves on and it will soon be spring.