Friday, 16 November 2012

Too cocksure - Betsy

BetsyI enjoy walking around Sheffield, using my inefficient white cane technique and increasingly inefficient vision. My problems usually start when I approach a road, and someone grabs my arm and asks if I need any help. Now my plan is always to look in both directions and focus my ears, which are my most efficient sense. However, when the person grabbing me is elderly I hesitate before refusing assistance as I think we don't really value older people, and at 77 I do not think of myself as being in this category yet. So, I turn and smile at my eager elderly helper and say 'Thank you very much' and then disentangle my elbow from their hand and place my arm inside theirs. While crossing I look and listen as I do when on my own as I am always amazed at what fully sighted people do not see. When at the other side I again thank my helper and they limp off smiling and feeling they have really been useful. I stride off thinking I too have been useful.

In today's case I was preparing to cross the road towards Sheffield Castle Market. This is an interesting place because two roads join just ahead of me, bringing buses and taxis up the hill and more of the same around the corner from my left. It is a real challenge crossing here and I get fully focused. This time, however, just as I am about to set off, two hands clamp themselves around my right upper arm and a woman's voice says 'Can I help you to cross the street?'. Now my concentration is shattered and I am thinking murderous thoughts, but I turn to the woman and give the usual smiling response while trying to disentangle my arm. We set off and I am focusing carefully on the two roads when I realise that she is taking me off to the right rather than straight across the road. 'What the hell is she doing?' I think to myself and wonder if I am being hijacked.

Suddenly I see it - a six foot high wire fence rising from the kerb ahead of us and running for many feet along the roadside. Finally we round the end of the fence and, mounting the kerb, I thank my guide and she rushes off towards the market. I stop to gather my wits and notice the new paving stones along the side of the road. Although I know that I would have found the fence and run along it to the end, and many might have shouted directions at me, I still must feel grateful to the woman. I tell myself 'Don't be too cocksure, you fool, I might really need such help one day!'.