The other day I set out on a quick expedition round the shops. My aim was to complete 2 very simple tasks: the first was to upload and print 2 photos at a photo kiosk, the second – to obtain a refund on a faulty product.
Boots (the shop, not the footwear) has a handy little area in which you can upload and print photos in an instant. I’ve pretty much used this facility since the moment the world became digital. The idea is that you rock up with your sim card / mobile phone, take a seat on one of their nifty little stools and let the computer do all the hard work. On arrival at the kiosks I stood there a moment. Something was different. It looked all neat and tidy and spacious. Hang about… There were no stools! They’d removed all the stools; not a single stool remained! There in front of me were 5 stool-less kiosks. I assume that their plans to create a more airy fairy store had rendered the stools superfluous. I’ve come to realise that people who have never had the need to require seating in a public space don’t see the point in providing seating in a public space. I imagine their reasoning went something like this – ‘These stools look a right mess, they can go.’ I looked desperately around for a moment or two, hoping to spot a chair tucked away somewhere. My eyes rested on a nearby beauty counter. There, amongst the intoxicating stench of celebrity-endorsed perfumes and sitting next to an orange-faced beautician, was a stool. I decided to just suffer the pain.
Moments later, with my legs full of lead, I shuffled along to task #2. The Debenhams store where I live has 4 storeys with escalators situated so that you have no choice but to walk all the way round each floor to reach each successive moving staircase. Had I felt refreshed from a little sit-down in Boots I may have attempted the climb to the 4th floor, where my item had originally been purchased; but as things were I decided to approach the nearest counter on the ground floor. I stood there and explained the situation, which sounded so farcical that I didn’t at all blame the shop assistant for looking at me as if I had tiny dinosaurs spouting out of my nostrils. “Hang on, I’ll just need to pop upstairs and speak to the toy department,” she said. Off she went and there I stood, waiting… and waiting… and waiting. I looked around – no chairs in sight. I looked at the floor – it looked pretty grimy and not at all appealing to sit on.
The ache in my legs was becoming quite intense now, time to suck it up, “Excuse me,” I meekly approached a passing member of staff, “Are there any chairs I could sit on?” And there it was, the blankest of looks followed by the all too familiar furrowed brow as she said, “There are chairs upstairs, why? Are you OK?” “Yes, it’s just that I have MS and I’m struggling to stand.” Still looking utterly bemused off she trotted in search of a chair, returning moments later with a stool that she’d borrowed from the neighbouring (not so orange but heavily eyebrowed) beauty therapist. Huh. I hate asking people for a chair when I’m out – I’m all too aware that I don’t look disabled (whatever ‘disabled’ is supposed to look like!) I felt incredibly awkward asking for a seat and even more so as I sat at the counter with every passing customer doing a double-take to gawp.
It’s precisely experiences like this that makes me positively long for my wheelchair!