I’m disabled at the moment: I can’t walk properly, and even simple things like going to the corner shop take a lot of effort. It gives you an interesting perspective on things, and on people: it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, as Slipknot put it, people = shit.
To take just a few examples: I went to see Eels play at the Carling Academy the other night, and I was quite relieved that it was a seated gig – until I saw the seating. I’m not a particularly big chap (I’m 6’1″ with a fairly slight build) but I could barely fit into my seat; when two very large blokes sat next to me, the only way I could sit was to twist my back – which is a no-no, as it hurts like hell to do that. There was no way I could have stayed seated; I ended up spending the gig slumped over a railing, which spoiled the gig somewhat.
It was my wife’s birthday the other day, so we went down the road to look in jewellers. Because I can’t walk properly, we got the bus; by the time we got off the bus, I was close to tears. The bus driver was one of those frustrated boy racer types who accelerates like a maniac and brakes like a demon, and as we got to our stop he braked so hard I was thrown halfway across the bus, seriously wrenching my back (we had to call off the shopping trip in the end, I was in agony).
On Friday, we went to see Derren Brown at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, a rather genteel venue with a grown-up audience – nice people who barged happily into me as I shuffled my way through the exit door.
I could go on forever, having been barged into or shoved in bookshops, on the stairs of underground stations and so on, but the point is: I’d never really noticed this before, but now I’m temporarily disabled I’m getting a vivid illustration of how thoughtless people can be and how awkward many public spaces can be for anyone who isn’t completely mobile.
A little bit of thought would make a big difference. If the bus driver had thought about his passengers, he’d have realised that half of them were pensioners or people with mobility problems, and he might have toned down his aggressive driving. If the person who put the seats in the Academy had thought a bit more, they’d have realised that the seats were inadequate for adult audiences. If the crowd at the concert hall had thought a bit more, they might have realised that no matter how much barging into people they did, they’d only gain a second or two at best. And so on.
I don’t really think that people = shit, but I do think people are often too wrapped up in their own concerns at the expense of thinking about others. I’m not asking the entire human race to start being lovely – I’m not that naive – but as the various examples above demonstrate, people’s lack of thought can have painful consequences. While my symptoms will (hopefully) vanish post-surgery, I’d like to think that my experience of disability means I’ll be a bit more considerate towards others in the future.
* The title’s from Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a pretty good explanation of the meaning of life.