Saturday, 4 April 2015

Don't block me in!

The picture shows a small area opposite the wheelchair allocated area on trains. This area is leads to the automatic carriage door that leads to the vestibule and toilet; and is the only exit wheelchair users can access.

If blocked with luggage it traps the wheelchair user within the carriage. Thus we’re unable to access the toilet. Or even get off the train if our stop is earlier than the train’s termination.

On countless occasions I have politely requested that passengers don’t leave their buggies, suitcases, rucksacks, Tesco’s weekly shop, double bass, and various indeterminate objects in these spaces.

Mostly my beseeching has been disregarded. On one occasion a rather nice elderly couple entered the carriage Mrs Nice Elderly Couple strolled along the aisle searching out their seat reservations while Mr Nice Elderly Couple began stowing away the half-a-house they had decided needed a holiday. On finding space for several rather large pieces of baggage Mr Nice Elderly Couple mopped the sweat he’d worked-up from his labours from his wet brow. All that remained was a suitcase about half the size of Hampshire.

“Phew, hot work!” this travelling, Mr Nice Elderly Couple wheezed at me, either grinning or struggling to ensure the breath he was trying to catch wasn’t his last. I couldn’t be too sure as he was looking decidedly doddery even before he took on the Herculean task of luggage storage.

I smiled weakly in return; not sure if getting into a conversation with someone potentially so close to his maker was wise.

Nodding to me, or at least think it was a nod, it could have been a trial-run at his last earthly movement, he then began to wobble along the carriage to where Mrs Nice Elderly Couple had expelled a squatter from her reserved seats.

“Excuse me!” I called after him. “You not supposed to leave luggage in that space” I stated. To which he, with disturbingly furrowed brow (where did he conjure up all that extra forehead to create what looked like a map of Clapham Junction?), asked: “Oh, why not?”

Not really wishing to engage in a big debate I pointed to the (admittedly not overly large and quite poorly located) sign telling people not to block area with luggage.

He looked a bit put out, so I reinforced the sign’s message by explaining that his piece of luggage, without reference to its incredibly large volume, blocked my access to the exit; and this meant I couldn’t move freely around the train, especially making it impossible for me to get to the toilet.

“Sorry, I’ll move it while you go to the toilet” he offered, missing the point by a distance not far short of his giant suitcase.

As he began to shift it I said: “I don’t need to use the toilet right now…”, at which he replaced the suitcase and toddled off to his seat.

“You have to move the luggage from this area” I called after him with all the authority I could muster, without making this into the in-train journey entertainment.

He, not bothering to stop, called over his shoulder, “Just let me know when you’re ready to use the toilet and I’ll come and move the case.”

Of course, why didn’t I think of that? The reasonable mind will always uncover a reasonable solution to everyone’s satisfaction. Now, had I the gift of levitation this might have been considered a reasonable solution. I don’t, so I pressed the button for the train manager and left it to him to explain to Mr Nice Elderly Couple why he wasn’t allowed to leave one half of his house in that particular space.

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