Interference or Ignorance?

“I think these folk want past,” The figure belonging to the vaguely familiar voice suddenly pushes me, losing me my position in a queue whose length resembles a Muscovite bread line in the days of Stalin and sending both Mr. Dog and myself several feet across the shop. It's Friday, so we're in to pay the papers. Ah well, now I'd have longer to check the contents of my purse; organise my change.

Nae chance! I was still sifting through smooth and ridged edges when, “This is yer new dug, isn't it? Settlin in, is he?”

I lose count a five pence piece remains jammed in the corner of my purse and I'll probably hand over a two pence instead of a two pound when I eventually reach the top of that queue.

I've had enough! The contents of my backpack has been both shaken and stirred. And as for Mr. Dog. . . He's been my Significant Canine Other for almost four years! He's DEFINITELY SETTLED, EVEN IF MY SHOPPING ISN'T. “Sorry, but I was trying to count my money.” Stating the obvious, without actually being obviously rude.

With a faint puff, she evaporated from my side. Leaving me the peace not only to resume my task but also to ponder a particular aspect of behaviour. The apparent urge found in some members of the public to take over the daily doings of anyone with an obvious disability who crosses their bows. Especially if there's a potentially appreciative audience in the vicinity.

Would this woman have behaved as Mrs. Interfering towards anyone else? I very much doubt it! Maybe it's my upbringing, but I wouldn't deliberately push someone who was a mere acquaintance virtually off their balance then interrupt their concentration by shouting an inanity into their lug. Mrs. Interfering on the other hand, had assumed that I would have no conception whatsoever regarding my surroundings and certainly neither purpose nor reason to be in there anyway.

Don't get me wrong, there are situations when assistance makes things so much easier, even less dangerous for both Mr. Dog and me. The kindness of strangers is something for which I am eternally grateful. And I realise that often, it cannot be particularly easy for any potential assistant. Consider, for example, the dilemma presented to the Chivalrous Chap faffing around as he attempts his moral duty to prevent Mr. Dog and me falling into the latest trench system excavated by one of our public utilities. If he grabs my elbow, will I immediately beat him about the head with my bulging backpack? Or should he leave well alone, so that Mr. Dog and I stumble head-first into a muddy pit half filled with rainwater and discarded chips?

Mrs. Interfering, however, was one of those whose aim in life is to Take Over; helping any who really shouldn't be out alone. Perhaps I'm being over critical and, I'm the first to admit that, since I am unable to judge body language, I might be making a terrible mistake over this. But, help can be given in such discreet ways. The wee wifie at the kirk who often whispers, “Ah hope ye dinnae mind, but ye've lipstick all ower yer front teeth.” She certainly doesn't bellow nor does she send me whizzing along the pew with an unexpected body blow.

Mind you, Mrs. Interfering did at least acknowledge my existence. And unrequested help, although irritating suggests some sense of obligation even if it is compounded with a wish to be seen Doing Good. Much worse, and more insidious, are those for whom Ignorance is Bliss. Those who hope, by ignoring the presence of Mr. Dog and me, can pretend we're not even there. Because if we're not there, they don't have to do anything about us, do they? I might rail at being shoved into a chair on my arrival at an event but that at least is an acknowledgement. Much worse is to be standing in company, a knotless thread, while all around voices prattle. And this attitude is just as prevalent with major institutions. For every one which happily communicates in audio, large print or Braille, whichever format has been requested, there will be another ignoring the request or doing its damnedest to wriggle out of any obligation. As a quick rule of thumb, the most accommodating bodies are private companies probably because they see everyone, even those on benefits, as a potential customer, the most intolerant are government agencies and the outwardly inclusive. And that's another story all to itself!

However, there's yet another reaction from the public which I ought to mention. Something which never, absolutely never, happened to me before I'd a Guide Dog. Something which some might consider most obtrusive, even politically incorrect. Whenever Mr. Dog and I are out, there's a fair chance that at some point, we'll be greeted by “Hello Gorgeous!” or “Oh my, aren't you beautiful?” Both Mr. Dog and I know these remarks are not directed at me but Mr. Dog is a charitable soul, a truly Noble Beast who is, therefore, perfectly happy to share any such compliments!

© Charlotte Bennie 2008