I met one the other day. In that supermarket; the only one within a 50 mile radius selling sushi. Needless to say, being a Saturday, there was no sushi. And, being a Saturday, the queues were long. Whilst our little contretemps ensued, all within earshot quickly fell silent. Savouring this unexpected piece of real life drama.

This was another episode in one of my life’s continuing sagas. Key pads, which, like the Dog in the Nightime, are silent. Of course, for most of you, especially if you haven’t encountered my other articles, this will be a mere triviality. In fact, you might be positively delighted; constantly beeping and pinging pieces of technology may be, for you, a bane of modern life. Maybe you lament how ramps and banisters now spoil the looks of many a sonsy, solid public building; never mind making them so vulnerable to attack by Daleks. In other words, you’ve never considered why such things are, and how they contribute to an improvement in daily getting on with things for many. Many, who, otherwise, would find everyday activities, such as going to the bank or buying a loaf, impossible to do on their own.

Now, I’m not demanding a Blinkie like me should have the right to become a fighter pilot, for a start, I’m probably too old. Nor am I insisting I should be allowed to work as a brain surgeon, Mr. Dog would make everything in the operating theatre hairy. Coming to terms with a disability means learning when to compromise, but there are plenty of things which I think are still well within my compass. Shopping, sometimes with assistance, being one.

And, by assistance, I don’t mean another person collecting Mr. Dog and me from the house and then conducting us on a guided tour around whichever shop I request. In my home town, in traditionally operated shops, Mr. Dog and I manage fine. Well, I’ve always to keep the Lad on a shorter lead when we’re in the pet shop. Mr. Dog has no morals when confronted by an open sack of grub, even if it is for guinea pigs. Sometimes, as in the Co-op or Boots, I ask for sighted assistance; otherwise, I’d be in danger of destroying carefully assembled displays of Chardonnay and how on earth would I be able to choose any lippy? Labradors don’t wear the stuff. Remember, the term for a person who works in a shop is “Shop Assistant”, which means such a person is there to help any customer make the purchases they want. Thus, I can have the pattern on a pair of tights described, the size and colour of a pair of cords identified, or have a tenner returned because I’d confused it for a fiver.

And it was a financial transaction which caused the outbreak of bolshieness. Instead of using crisp, new banknotes, or even a string of cowrie shells, I had to use that blessed key pad. Not so I could prove a point, nor out of essertness but because, as is so often the case in a supermarket, I’d bought more than originlly intended. I explained I would be taking my time with the machine because, with it being silent, I had to be extra careful. And this was when our piece of ex tempore theatre began. The cashier insisted the machine did beep, otherwise the transactions would not register. Perhaps so, perhaps, at that angle, closer to both till and key pad, a faint sound could be heard. Or perhaps I’m just being charitable. Because, where I stood, surrounded by girning weans, gossiping wifies, ringing tills, all the normal noisiness of a Saturday supermarket, I wasn’t conscious of anything emitting from that key pad. Not a ping, not a chirp, not a beep. For all I knew, my digits were as likely to have tapped out a message to inter planetary craft as my PIN. And I was listening; listening as closely as if wearing a pair of those extendable lugs sold by the Weazlys in Diagonally.

However, this wasn’t acceptable. It was made frostily clear. If the cashier knew the machine had beeped, then it had, immaterial that it had been inaudible to me. Obviously, blinkies shouldn’t come out to do their shopping; they stay at home and send out their man. After all, there he was, standing beside me, so he must be fairly well trained and domesticated.

Aye right but why should I? How would you like it if some petty restrictions were placed on your choice of shops? Boycotting an establishment is all very well but it’s usually a case of cutting off one’s proboscis and why should I be the one forced into it?

So, here’s an idea to be incorporated into the training of all potential shop assistants. Each must spend some time in a wheelchair, wearing ear plugs, blindfolded, and somewhere built to a doubled scale, so all but the lowest shelves are out of reach. Surely, that isn’t unreasonable? It’s not as if the puir, wee sowels would have to endure all of those conditions simultaneously and it would only be temporary. Letting them off quite lightly, don’t you think?

© Charlotte Bennie 2010