You’ve Enabled Me

, , , , | | Hopeless | May 13, 2019

Let me start by saying that I am enormously grateful to live in a country that has safety nets for the unfortunate and the ill; without them, I’d be dead. Sadly, the way that the current administration handles applications and treats disabled people is criminal.

Sit tight; this one really sucks (until the end).

I had been called in for my PiP assessment, a test where an unqualified person asks you vague questions and then lies on a form about your answers.

I had to be at their offices at eight am in a city a full hour’s drive from where I live. After getting lost twice because of road work, I finally found somewhere to park and hobbled to the office.

The appointment was a nightmare. The woman clearly wasn’t listening to anything I said and did a “physical assessment” of my condition from across the room without leaving her chair — an assessment which took my specialist, with 40 years in the field, six months and millions of pounds worth of machinery to figure out. By the time she was finally done, I was emotionally and physically drained as I staggered out to the main office, only to be greeted with the news that there were yet more forms I had to fill out.

Once I was finally able to make my escape, I was barely holding it together as I headed back to my car, thinking only about getting home and hiding in bed.

Then, I tried to pay for my parking. It turned out that the only parking structure near their office had had a massive recent price hike, and I didn’t have enough money to pay to get my car.

I was in tatters, guys.

I was in so much pain I could barely stand, I was an hour from home, and I had no idea what to do. So, there I was, a 40-year-old guy with tears on my face, trying to explain to the lady at the other end of an intercom what was going on when a young couple who had, I guess, heard what was going on just rocked up and said, “Don’t worry; we’ve got this,” and paid for my ticket.

It wasn’t a huge amount — £20 — but the simple kindness of those two strangers gave me the strength to get home.

I doubt they’ll ever see this and I wish I’d been in any state to thank them properly for their help, but that gesture got me through that awful day.

Classic Car, Not-So-Classic Owner

, , , | Hopeless | April 29, 2019

(I’m driving home from work. I’m driving a beater car, and a noisy ride is the norm. However, today something doesn’t feel right. The car starts shaking oddly and I pull over at the next gas station to see if I have a flat. I do all the checks I can think of, but everything checks out. So, off I go, planning on taking it easy and having my fiance check it out once I get home. Back on the highway, it almost instantly gets WAY worse. It’s rush hour, and pulling over where I am is not a safe bet. I start taking my normal highway exit, planning to get a quarter of a mile down the road to get off onto a side street. The car has a different plan. As I’m in the turn, there is a bang and all sorts of grinding, and I feel for a moment like I’m going to lose control. Luckily, I’m able to get coast over and come to a stop not ten yards from the end of the exit ramp. On this particular day, I have my two-and-a-half-year-old rescue puppy along for the ride. So. there we are, rush hour, end of a busy ramp, cars flying by at 55 to 60 mph, unable to really get over because of where we ended up stopping. I climb out the passenger side door to look at the damage. Not only did I NOT blow a tire, but my tire is no longer connected to the car. Luckily, because I was turning into that side, the tire has wedged itself under the car’s frame at an odd angle. Later, I find out that the wrong size lug nuts were used by the last owner, and they have all sheared clean off, causing the tire to disconnect while going 50 mph. As I’m trying to grab our things and get my poor, frightened pup ready to get out of the car, a beautiful classic Jaguar Convertible pulls over in front of us. The passenger jumps out and walks over.)

Gentleman: “Hey, you doing okay?”

(I am just getting my puppy, Todd, out of the car onto the grass.)

Me: “I think so. I’m…”

Todd: *frantic, overwhelmed barking*

Me: “I’m so sorry. He is a bit overwhelmed. We are going to walk off the highway and make some calls.”

Gentleman: “Is it a tire? I could help you change it quickly if…” *noticing the awkward angle of my not flat tire* “On second thought, I don’t think that is going to cut it. Why don’t you let us give you a ride off the highway at least?”

(The driver of the Jaguar is a tiny, blonde woman.)

Woman: *waves* “Come on, sweetheart!”

Me: “I really appreciate the offer but I have Todd with me, and I wouldn’t want to get fur or–“

Gentleman: *cuts me off* “Nonsense! We have dogs, too; he will be no trouble. Come on. Let’s get you two off this busy highway.”

(As we walk over, I realize that the convertible has a backseat bench, but is so tiny that you can only sit in the front two. Before I can say anything:)

Gentleman: “I’ll jump the fence and meet you over at [Restaurant].” *proceeds to walk away*

Woman: “Oh, look at you two! Get in the front seat; your dog can either sit on the floor or on your lap.”

Me: “Are you sure it’s okay? We can just–“

Woman: “I insist! Now, get in, so we can get out of here. This is a terrible spot to be broken down.”

(We get situated, which is a little tricky, seeing as I have trained Todd to not get into the front seat of vehicles, but we are soon ready to go. Suddenly, I realize that the gentleman is walking back toward us.)

Gentleman: “I may have both underestimated the height of the fence and overestimated my climbing abilities so…”

Woman: “Well, get your a** in the back, then, and hang on!”

(He climbs onto the back of the car, his feet the only part of him that fits on the back bench, and we drive along the edge of the highway looking like a one-car parade. He even waves at a few passing cars along the way. As we drive, I find out that they were behind me when I first pulled over, and had driven around taking four different exits to get back to me on the side of the road. They drop me off, but they refuse to leave before making sure I have a fully-charged phone, a few bottles of water for me and Todd, the number for two different tow companies, and the name of the gentleman’s buddy’s auto shop. Then, as I am thanking them, the tiny blonde shoves $40 into my hand.)

Me: “I really can’t accept–“

Woman: “Well, we refuse to take it back, so I suppose you will have to pay it forward when you can.” *winks at me before giving me a big hug*

(They drove off with a few fewer bottles of water, 40 fewer dollars, and dog hair all over the front seat of their classic car. There is also a selfie somewhere of us all packed into their tiny Jaguar. I was too shocked to ask for a copy of the photo, or their names, and I still regret that. A terrible drive home was turned into a slightly amusing story of how a girl and her dog got to ride in a classic Jaguar Convertible. My fiance is still jealous.)

This Train Will Be Terminating At Your Hearts

, , , , | Hopeless | April 24, 2019

Mumbai, India has two major arteries for its public commutes: its railway lines. They’re overcrowded, overloaded, and held together by sheer force of will and prayer, but they still carry the city on their shoulders. An average intra-city train with a capacity of 1,900 passengers will, on a normal run, carry over 5,300 at a time. Trains are identified by the time they are scheduled to arrive at the station, and even if they’re running a few minutes late, they’ll run the exact same route every single day. Platforms at each station can range from 300 metres length at the shortest, to over half a kilometre long elsewhere. They’re connected using a warren of tunnels and overhead bridges, so it wouldn’t be out of order for commuters to walk over a kilometer or two to reach the exit gates.

I commute using one of these lines. This time, while I was waiting on the platform, an old, blind man, hard of hearing and holding a crutch, was asking if the 12:15 to [Terminus] had arrived. The train prior to that, the 12:04, hadn’t arrived yet, and the passengers around him were saying so. He probably wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, so he kept asking. I gently told him it was the 12:04 next, and I’d put him on the train.

He then asked if he could be helped to board the 12:15, since the 12:04 would mean a walk of over two kilometres from the platform it ended at to the main gates at [Terminus]. The 12:15 landed on the platform closest to the gates. I had time on my hands, so I agreed. The poor guy was so overwhelmed that he held on to me for the ten minutes or so it took for the train to arrive. “My keeper is with me; I have no worries,” he kept chanting. I gave my bags to him to hold, as an assurance that I wasn’t going anywhere until he was on the train.

The 12:15 arrived and I helped him to the doors of the train. People on the train immediately held on to him, pulled him up, and held on behind him so that he wouldn’t fall. A few people immediately emptied their seats for him and he sat down on a corner, trying to occupy the least amount of space. I moved on, finding luggage space for my bags and then a seat for myself, so I lost track of what happened to him after.

When I was alighting at my stop, two halts before [Terminus], I caught sight of him once again. He was asking around if someone would help him alight at [Terminus]. A group of teenagers, heading home from school, told him they would do that. He was still worried and kept repeating his request to the compartment. So, they just created space in the middle of their own seats and got him to sit there safely, telling him, “Uncle, we’re all alighting at [Terminus] only. We’ll make sure you, too, reach it comfortably.”

I alighted at my destination with a smile, realising one thing: Mumbai’s regular commuters never lack empathy. They will give answers to everything you ask, even delaying their own journey if someone is in need. They’ll look out for everyone with more difficulties than them. No matter how uncomfortable the journey, if you’re less able than the rest, we’ll make sure it’s comfortable for you at least.

Helping A Stranger Is Good Medicine

, , , , | Hopeless | April 23, 2019

(I decide to spoil my daughter and myself on this particular day. I have just gotten paid, as I get paid monthly through Social Security Death Benefits, and have just finished paying all bills and doing whatever shopping we need. I have taken my daughter out to dinner at a restaurant we don’t normally go to, as it is a bit pricey. While we are there, an older lady is trying to get ahold of a pharmacy and her insurance. I happen to overhear a snippet of her saying she was just released from the hospital after having a heart attack, and doesn’t know how she’ll be able to afford her medication. It is all I could do to hold tears back, remembering how hard it was when my husband was alive, and we were struggling to pay for his medication after his first heart attack. I tell my daughter to stay where she is and I walk up to this lady.)

Me: “Ma’am, I couldn’t help but overhear, but did I hear you correctly when you said you were just released from the hospital after a heart attack and didn’t know how you’d be able to pay for your medication?”

Lady: “It’s $1,100 a month! I don’t know how I’ll afford that and my insurance is being a pain. They may not get it going until tomorrow, but today I have no idea how I will get that medicine. I need it.”

Me: *understanding exactly how much she needs this* “Miss, if you allow me…”

(I press $40 into her hand, and hold it.)

Me: “My late husband had a heart attack, and it was a struggle to pay for his medication. Please accept this to get you by for today, at the least.”

Lady: “Oh, you don’t have to.”

Me: “Ma’am, I want to. I know how hard it is.”

Lady: “Thank you so much!”

(My daughter and I left before finding out if her insurance was able to cover today or not, but lady, I sincerely hope it got better for you. I know $40 is hardly enough to cover the cost of medication in this place, but I know even a little can go a long way.)

A Kindness Souvenir

, , , , | Hopeless | April 16, 2019

I have flown to Washington DC with my grandma to meet my aunt. I am returning home by plane, as my home is over a thousand miles away. As a minor — I turned fifteen a month ago — I can bring in my relatively small suitcase, but I run into a problem at the security checkpoint where the fluid in my suitcase — a souvenir — is a problem, and I will have to check in the luggage. Okay, no problem.

I make my way back and notice my grandma, who has watched me through the security checkpoint, has already left before the problem and is most likely currently going through security at her own gate. My aunt dropped us off but did not come in with us.

I head over to the check-in service and wait in line, before finally coming up to the nice lady manning the station. I’m socially anxious, as well as hard of hearing — I wear hearing aids — so it takes quite a while for me to understand and do everything; this is my first time doing it without parental help. She tells me it will be a $20 fee.

My mother has given me my personal debit card and has told me to never let my balance go below $10. However, I have spent quite a bit on souvenirs, bringing the total on my debit card to $12. I do not know this, so I hand her the debit card and it is declined. Slowly, it starts to sink in that I do not have enough money. I’m starting to panic and start texting my mom. Again, being socially anxious plus hard of hearing means I can’t hear my mom over the phone.

A few minutes later, she hasn’t texted me. I’m just awkwardly smiling at the other passerby while trying so very hard not to cry. She finally texts me, and my heart plummets when I read it. She can’t transfer money to my debit card.

I don’t want to bother my grandma to come back through security. I don’t have any change. And I’m currently a thousand miles away from home with no way getting there. I start crying, trying to cover up my tears, and sobbing and apologizing profusely to the lady. She’s offering a smile but it’s hopeless; I can’t get back. I can’t get rid of the souvenir, either, because my grandma got it for me, and it included some other things.

All a sudden, the lady working in the next booth over speaks up and pays for it — all $20. I honestly can’t remember what happened because it was all such a haze, but I was either too dumbfounded to utter a thank-you that sounded sincere or was thanking her non-stop.

Thanks to that lady, whom I can honestly not thank enough, I got home safely. I will always forever be grateful for her, and even as I’m writing this, I’m fighting back tears. She has my undying thanks. I wish I could find her and pay her back the $20.

After the ordeal, my mom and I have vowed I will now keep at least $30 in my debit account, working to make $100 in there and keeping it in there.

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