Last week I was delayed for a while at Kings Cross railway station, because of an incident on the line at Stevenage. I’d just said goodbye to my friend Jane, after a great couple of days in London, with her wishing me a problem-free journey home. Then – oops – the 14.05 to Leeds is cancelled (along with several other trains). I can see the cancellation on the digital display but what I can’t decipher is the station announcements, which are coming thick and fast. To me they are just a loud, crackly racket. Luckily, there are two railway staff on the concourse so I ask one of them what is happening and they explain. I can either wait here for the line to re-open – they don’t know when that will be – or head north via Sheffield (if you know northern English rail connections a dubious alternative if ever I heard one). So I stay put. But the announcements keep coming. I ask the helpful railway man again – nothing different. More announcements. I start worrying that I might miss something important, but I can’t ask the railway man what’s happening every two minutes – he has a long queue of people needing help. Then I ask the perfect stranger I’m standing next to if she can tell me what’s going on. I’m deaf, I explain, heading for Leeds. She immediately agrees and listens out for me, explaining that she is waiting for a Newcastle train. A man has overheard our conversation and says that he is going to Leeds; he’s just been told that the delay shouldn’t be too long. The two of them mainly just get on with their own waiting but when something relevant is announced they tell me. I just love the matter-of-fact helpfulness of it. They make me feel normal. THANK YOU anonymous people at Kings Cross.
Eventually the trains start running again and I am only an hour late getting home.
That was one small example of the many acts of helpfulness that I experience all the time. My lovely husband repeats himself a gazillion times a day, patiently and with good humour. My friends look out for me in dozens of ways – making sure I don’t miss the joke (“did you catch that Vera? – we were just remembering how funny it was when……”), playing musical chairs in cafes so I’m in the best lip reading position, keeping a seat for me in the front row of meetings. Complete strangers…….well, Kings Cross is a great example. I say “sorry, I’m deaf, could you please…….?” and people do it, by and large. Sometimes people forget but – hey – so would I in their shoes. I try to just shrug it off and remember all the times when things go well.
Sometimes strange things happen. Some time ago, I became convinced that everyone in the medical profession had been sent on some really bad deaf awareness course where they had been told that they MUST use dramatic hand gestures to accompany whatever they said to people with hearing loss. It was really disconcerting. For example, one day I was sitting in the waiting room of the local hospital after a routine breast screening appointment, waiting to be told that the X-ray was clear enough to be sent for scrutiny. Another woman and I were sat there in our pink NHS dressing gowns, chatting to pass the time. The nurse came out of her office. “Mrs Brearey” (waving madly in my direction), “the X-ray is fine” (two prominent thumbs up signs and a big grin), “you can get changed now” (she points firmly at the changing rooms), ”then go home” (she points equally firmly at the exit). The look on the face of the woman I had been talking to was priceless.
But it’s good to laugh. I find it helps a lot.
PS If you would like to read another blogger’s take on the travel problems of people with hearing loss click here. Shari Eberts reports on excellent developments in the service offered by Delta Airlines. Now, if Kings Cross had a real time visual display of the station announcements that would definitely be progress.
PPS A HUGE thank you to Hearing Link, who have included More Than A Bit Deaf on the blogs page of their website (click here to see the other featured blogs) and on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Wow.