A Voice For The Voiceless

, , , , | Working | November 9, 2020

One year I, quite foolishly, go to work in a different part of the country with a severe throat infection. The fact that I am hungry, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived probably contributes to the incredibly poor decision making on my part. Unsurprisingly, I am sent home after just one shift, as the infection is getting worse, despite the fact that I got treatment before travelling. I have, among other things, pretty much completely lost my voice; not only can I not produce much volume, but it is also INCREDIBLY painful to speak.

Before leaving the hotel, I download a note-taking app, intending to use it to communicate. I am going to be travelling by train, which isn’t a quiet mode of transport. I open it while in the taxi and type a message at the very top of the screen.

Message: “HELLO! SORRY, I CANNOT SPEAK RIGHT NOW! THANK YOU!”

Problem solved, right?

Nope!

I realize I can’t read the destination boards. The letters on the destination boards are “moving,” and the slow cycling between English and Welsh isn’t helping matters. I type my request into the app.

Message: “Which platform for the train to Derby, please?”

And I look for a staff member to show my phone to.

When I eventually catch the attention of one — a difficult prospect when you can’t make yourself heard — he insists that the train I want doesn’t exist. As it is the reverse of the train I came down on and is one I catch regularly — albeit usually only to and from the interchange station in Birmingham — I know he is full of it. He isn’t even checking on a computer or handheld device, which would tell him which train I want. Only when I change the destination to “Nottingham,” the route’s other terminus, does he tell me what platform I need.

I miss the train by barely five minutes, so I have close to an hour’s wait for the next. It is a chilly late January morning, and standing or sitting for that long on a cold, noisy, windswept platform doesn’t appeal to me. Unfortunately, all of the platform signage, in both directions, is too far away for me to read, even if I was able to understand it, so I can’t tell where the waiting room is.

I type a new message into my app and flag down a member of staff that is on the platform.

Message: “Excuse me, is there a waiting room I could sit in?”

Staff Member #2: “Look at the signs.”

I tried to get him to look at my phone again, after typing, “I can’t read them, too far,” but he won’t look. Eventually, he waves his hand vaguely toward the platform buildings to my right, and luckily, there is a sheltered waiting room there with seats and charging sockets.

There is an at-seat food service on the train. I almost never buy from them because they’re overpriced for what you get, and I can’t really eat anyway. Normally, I shake my head, but even that is incredibly painful. When I see the staff member approaching, I type, “No, thank you,” under the header I typed in the taxi, and leave the screen on and orientate it toward the end of the table.

When the staff member stands next to me, I tap on my phone to draw his attention to it. He looks at it… and offers me a drink again. I add a note saying I can’t swallow and he scoffs.

Another passenger shouts for him to hurry up and stop trying to sell to someone who’s not interested, at which point he leaves. He makes a point of stopping at my seat on every trip through the train, though, in case I’ve miraculously gotten better.

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