Friday, 7 October 2011

Do you know how I get to the Hospital? Another day, another request for directions

You know when you are wrapped up in your own little bubble of problems and issues to deal with? 

Well, this is where I found myself as I was traipsing along in Southend, after a particularly strained session at the Council Tax Department. You know, having had the sort of conversation that begins with 'student' and ends with 'council tax exemption' and in the middle there is a grey bit that formulates the period between leaving college and starting University. Technically, my son was not a student at that stage and therefore he will not be exempt from paying Council Tax.

So, traipsing towards town thinking that possibly Christmas will be cancelled, and it is only ten weeks away, I notice a little old man looking at me.  I snap back to reality.  Really?  Now? I am going to be asked the Way?

Yes, it looks as though I am.  I remove an earpod ipod, headphone and fumble around for the off button. Thank you Steve Jobs for an ingenius piece of kit.  The old man talks at me as if I am still listening to music, as he pulls his trousers up higher round the waist, his frail frame sinking beneath the pale blue polyester trousers and yet at the same time setting off his tan quite nicely.  He has just got out of one of the most economical little blue cars I have seen for a while and he is waving his car key (clearly, some sort of proof that he is capable and a valued member of society, he is still driving).

'Hospital'  he says. 

The Hospital?  I stupidly repeat.  It has become a distinctly bad habit of mine, after years of counselling training, to repeat the words someone has said to me, by way of clarification.  The old man has gentle brown eyes, and although I do not recall seeing any actual teeth, I am pretty sure he was smiling.

'do you know how I get to the Hospital from here?' 

It is not a difficult question. It isn't.  Except that we are standing in the middle of the newly arranged "shared space". Roughly translated, think a Passage to India, where all sorts of transport crosses paths and everyone has the right of way.  Weekly incidents between buses, taxis, people and cyclists. 

I am aware that we are standing in the white-floored danger zone that has no obvious signs anywhere warning unsuspecting passers by of their impending doom, so I am quick with my arm waving and description as to where he needs to go.  I think he gets it.  I say 'will you be alright finding it?'  he is about 80 and I am not sure he ought to out unsupervised.  He laughs 'I will have to be'. Off he went. With the gait reserved for toddlers and pensioners.  He reminded me of a Ninja Turtle, an old one, in his little blue car and his collar too big for his neck.  Maybe weightloss was one of his symptoms.  He drives away. I have escaped the sharedspace unscathed.

I have done it again.  I promised myself that next time anyone asked me for directions I would attempt to engage them in a deeper conversation as to why they are headed, wherever it is.  My excuse this time is that I was in fear for my own safety.  I felt a facepalm coming on.  Oh well. Nothing I can do about it now.  What I should have done is taken a detour out of my day and offered to show him the Way by travelling with him.  But I didn't.  A missed opportunity to be as helpful as I possibly could.  Never mind. There will be another opportunity.

It did remind me of the time my Dad visited me in Hospital, shortly after I had given birth to his grandson. Driving down from London to Southend was easy enough, but finding Rochford Hospital was a bit out of his comfort zone. On the way he found a hitchhiker. I kid you not.  He picked up the hitchhiker and told him he would take him anywhere he wanted to go if he showed my Dad the way to the Hospital.  After having explained his reasons for wanting to get there, of course.  The Hitchhiker brought my Dad to Hospital and my Dad drove him home!   Now there is being as helpful as possible.

Love and light to everyone who needs it.

Tamasin x

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