N.B. This was bound to be posted on Saturday – the Saturday gone – but for one reason or another, it did not happen. Now I got the time, I publish it, but I did not change dates nor bothered swapping the “Today” for “last Saturday”.
Today at work was like any other Saturday. It was busy Saturday, with that overall feeling that I did not have enough hands to point in all the directions, ears to listen to all the questions or enough languages to give the answers that were needed.
As I said at the beginning, just like any other Saturday….but.
There is always a but. But this time, I think it was a good but.
Let me draw you a picture: Train boarding, loads of people invading the platform like ants, walking almost running (if not running) – and I still wonder why, after so many years watching the same ritual – to give it a name, no idea if I should call it a habit? The question always remains the same: if the train is not going anywhere until the time comes for it to depart, why oh why do people run?!
In the midst – or shall I say ocean – of people, I saw a wheelchair passenger and companion coming my way. As you can imagine, a wheelchair passenger is not so unusual a sight on a railway platform, so as soon as I spotted them coming towards me, I made my way to put the ramp so they can get on the train and everything can be as smooth as possible.
As I was putting up the ramp, obviously they were faster than me, so as I turn round to face them, I see them staring at me. The wheelchair passenger was a child – cannot pinpoint exactly the age, but definitely no more than 10 or 11 I would dare guess – and his companion was his mother.
I greet them and offered my help to get on the train, help that the mother politely refused with half a smile and certain nervousness. So, I just stood there, with a sort of silent declaration of “I respect your decision, nevertheless I am here if you change your mind” sort of thing.
They got in the carriage, and they made way to the seating area. I followed them – as I normally do – and ask the mother if she is fine with the space and if there is anything else I could do for her or for her child. She started to jabber nervously, explaining to me that her child needed to be seated upright due to a deficiency in his breathing.
As she was talking – very fast, quite nervous still – and I was listening trying to get all the information in and thinking about solutions, I heard a very soft squeak.
Suddenly, in a fraction of a second I realised that I did not have the full picture. I was dealing with two passengers, one in a wheelchair and the other was his companion. When I heard that soft squeak, I had the full picture. The wheelchair passenger was a child, no more than 10 years old, completely immobilised.
I did not waste any time, and I briefly paused the mother to ask for the boy’s name. Let’s call him Daniel and his mother Anita (real names kept private). I started to provide the answers for the questions Anita was asking but instead of answering them to her, I decided to kneel down and look at Daniel’s eyes whilst giving him the answers.
“Daniel, just so you know, I will be talking the train manager, who will be in charge during the journey, and asking him if it would be ok for you to sit in a two-seater, so you can be more comfy for the journey, is it ok if I come back in 2 minutes, I just need to talk to him?”
Daniels and his mum thanked me. Another soft squeak, a quirky smile and something in his eyes told me “thank you”. I called the train manager, explained the situation and he said “yes of course do whatever you need to do”, and so I did.
I came back, as we say in my country ‘like a dog with two tails’ to meet with Daniel and Anita, and again, kneel down to Daniels’s eye level and explained to him that he was more than welcome to stretch out in two seats, leave the wheelchair – with the brakes on, of course! – and just enjoy the ride.
Another soft squeak and something in Daniels’s eyes told me “thank you”. Anita was much more relaxed by now, and she explained, very calmly, that Daniel has a far more enjoyable trip if he can be seated upright so his lungs do not depend so much on the oxygen tank, he can breathe easily and that helps distract him with the view and the scenery.
Also if Daniel is relaxed she relaxes as well, so it works both ways.
I wave my goodbyes and wished a good journey to them, train doors closed, I left the platform and got on with another train, with not enough fingers to point in the right direction, not speaking enough languages to answer all the questions….
Just another Saturday.