Sunday, 11 October 2009

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You...

One thing I love about London is that the world is at your fingertips. Tomorrow I will be jumping on the bus to St Pancras and being whizzed off to Paris by train before moving on to Marrakech. I will be returning by air to Heathrow, where I can jump on the Piccadilly line before getting a bus from Kings Cross to be dropped off opposite my front door. As the annoying Meerkat says, Simples.
Yesterday I did a bit of last minute shopping in Angel and Baker Street. It was a pleasant day and a satisfying expedition. I did all my travelling by bus and took my usual place on the top deck. I like the top deck for two reasons: A. There is more room and the anxiety of trying to decide whether the elderly/pregnant lady will be offended if you offer her your seat is greatly reduced and,
B. You get a better view.
You have probably already noticed that I take great pleasure in people watching (Read: I am plain nosey). From the top deck you not only get to observe the other people on the bus, but also the world outside. On this occasion it was the people on the bus that caught my attention.
As is often the case, at the back of the bus a young man was playing music on loud speaker. This is not unusual. But this young man had his son with him, who looked about 2 years old. I had my back to them, but towards the end of my journey the bus driver applied his brake sharply. There was a thud at the back of the bus followed by a loud “FUCK!!” The little boy started to cry.
A woman sat behind me muttered, “Well, if you let your kid stand on the seat…”
The little boy didn’t cry for long, to his credit. He and his father got off the bus a couple of stops later. As they walked down the stairs, the father commented, “Well it will teach you not to climb on the chairs innit.”
I don’t have kids myself, but I have a father. I have never heard him say “Fuck” in all my 29 years, and certainly didn’t hear him swear until I was well into double digits. I wouldn’t say he wraps me in cotton wool, but he still warns me to be careful of a hot iron or slippery path although I’ve managed to live away from the family nest for over ten years. My point? Surely parents should take some responsibility for protecting their children from potential pain, and protect their innocence to some degree? Or am I just being old fashioned?
During the same journey a group of three were sat opposite me, a young woman and two young men. One of the young men had a learning disability (having worked in the field and like to think I have some license to make this assumption), and seemed happy enough singing to himself and looking out of the window. Just before I got off the bus, something distressed him.
“Oh God, he’s gonna kick off now.” His female companion said, then a little louder, “WE ARE NEARLY HOME NOW, OKAY?”
“It’s a shame,” the second young man said.
“Yeah I know. He always does this. And he’s had such a good day out.” She replied.
The young man didn’t “kick off”, which actually surprised me. Not because all people with learning disabilities have “behavioural problems”, but because, to be quite honest, if someone who I clearly had to rely on for support spoke about me like that as though I wasn’t even there, I’d be pretty pissed off. And not having the vocabulary to say, “Excuse me, but I have a learning disability and not a hearing impairment, would you please show me a bit of respect and treat me like a human being,” I’d want to express myself some other way.
Sometimes people forget that, just because someone is young or disabled, they still know and absorb what is going on around them. If someone they look up to and rely on behaves in a certain way, they are likely to mirror them, whether that’s being disrespectful or careless.
Fifteen years from now, I wonder how that little boy will behave whilst travelling on the bus. As for the guy with the learning disability, I hope his other carers show him a bit more respect before he does express his frustration and gets labelled as “challenging”. As for the care-givers involved in these instances… I think it’s probably too late to wish much for them.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with your comments of your bus stories...some people seem to forget that a person with learning disability is a human being and needs to be treated with the same respect as any other person.
    I enjoyed the years we were working for Mencap...very happy times...