“That’s all right, love. I’ve no objection to getting physical!”
Not what you expect to hear whilst standing in the queue at the hole in the wall. Even if the speaker’s voice sounds familiar and therefore, probably belongs to either a member of the local kirk or the Roatary. Or have I just led a sheltered life?
I’d done it again. Mistaken a bulky person for a piece of the local landscape; in this case, the bank, which on a November morning, had blended into the grey dreichness of the Scottish winter. Instead of gripping the hand rail beside the actual puggy keypad, I’d grabbed an unsuspecting chap’s bum. Thus illustrating one of the advantages of living in an isolated Scottish town. Most folk have an inkle as to most other folk’s identity. So, I wasn’t accused of Happy Slapping nor even of rampant feminism. Similarly, when I recently told another chap I had assumed he was a pole, he didn’t accuse me of racism nor launch into a defence of the Common Market but, instead, accepted my explanation that I had poked him sharply in a squashy bit because I’d been aiming for the control box on the Belisha beacon. People might not know my name but they know Mr. Dog and for every eejit giving me hassle, there are many more who at least make an attempt to help. Prodding bystanders and bumbling my way more quickly than I ought up the Post Office queue can be greeted with frosty embarrassment but more generally with helpful hilarity. Nor am I going to clamber onto the high mare of feminism and object to being addressed as “love” or “hen” if the whole process means that life’s daily transactions are achieved more easily.
And anyway, Mr. Dog and I don’t sally forth with the upheaval of Scottish mores or the embarrassment of the lieges as our primary intention. Posting off the foreign Christmas cards or visiting the fish van have complications enough. Using my disability to take advantage of others would be as bad as those inadequates who use my disability to try and make a fool of me. However, I do have one exception. Avoiding any Persona non Grata when attending a Do, especially if it promises to be an occasion involving much milling around and conversation on the hoof. Mr. Dog and I enjoy a Guid Nicht Oot; it gives me a chance to bling up and Mr. Dog to display just how noble a beast he is. However, there is always the distinct possibility that some of the others present will be people I’d prefer not to meet. The gusher whose sole topic of conversation is either golf or the latest grand wean; both of which is, of course, perfect. Or that worryingly successful person with a personality suggesting their favourite character in fiction, assuming they can read, is that savage megalomaniac, Jack from “The Lord of the Flies”. The easy, but churlish, solution is to politely decline the invitation; instead, Mr. Dog and I prefer to attend. After all, why should we lose out on a chance to dress up and enjoy good nosh prepared by someone else? No, depriving myself of good company achieves nothing except a bout of dismal, self pity.
There remained, however, the problem. A sighted person can view the company and, even across a crowded room, pick out Those Who Must be Avoided. They can ignore eye contact, scan the surrounding groups for helpful friends guaranteed to come to their rescue. All I have is acute hearing. Not only am I listening to any conversation in which I’m participating, but an antenna is twitching around, alert and ready to warn. The consumption of gin, therefore, is best kept to a minimum.
And if, because of gin or general noise, the antenna fails? And Mr. Dog and I come face to face with Someone Unpleasant? This is when I am very naughty. No, I don’t prod them sharply. I don’t even pat their bum. No, I just blank the unpleasant one. Very easy when many assume that anyone with a Guide Dog lives in total darkness. And if the one to be avoided speaks, what then? Well, I’ve a Guide Dog, so I must be deaf as a post, mustn’t I?
Such a shame, I can’t revel in the satisfying enjoyment of the look on the unwanted physog as Mr. Dog and I sweep on by. Ah well, you can’t have everything!