Queuing is something extremely difficult to do if you can’t see. There seems to be a whole culture around queuing and its etiquette and so often I, as a blind person and guide dog owner, get this wrong. I cause offence, I cause people to tut or moan at me but I very rarely get any meaningful help with it.
I was once told, in no uncertain terms, that just because I’m blind, it doesn’t mean that I can go to the front of the queue. This was at a bus stop where I had done just that. I don’t do it out of a sense of entitlement but simply because it is really the only option for me.
I catch a bus at a stop which is part of a long line of stops and for this reason, I need my guide dog to identify the stop I need which he does very well. However, he targets the bus stop post itself, rather than the queue. It’s impossible to train guide dogs to find the end of a queue which could be anywhere, it could be moving, and it could also be near to the next stop in the line if it is very long.
Another reason for going to the bus stop itself is so that the bus driver is aware that I want to catch the bus he or she is driving. If I’m further back in the queue, or worse still, not in the queue at all as I haven’t found it properly, the driver will probably be totally unaware of me.
Lastly, I do it so that when the bus pulls in empty, I can get on quickly, find a seat and quickly tuck my dog in out of everyone’s way.
I’ve tried asking people where the back of the queue is and invariably when I ask the question, I am met with silence. I used to worry greatly when I jumped the queues, but now, maybe because I’m older and care less what others think, I just do it. Sometimes kind people tell me to go on first, for which I am very appreciative.
Last night we had a different scenario. I was with my husband and his guide dog at the royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. At the end of the show, although we had asked for assistance to find the way out, none was forthcoming, so we decided to try to find our own way out. There was a bigger than usual backlog of people waiting to get out, probably because they were handing out badges to the audience. We waited for a while but suddenly, my husband’s dog saw a way through and went for it so we started walking. What we didn’t realise is that we were actually passing people who started to make comments “Why are those dogs doing that?” Doing what? Seeing a way through and going for it? No, it was probably breaking queue etiquette. However, at no time did anyone say, “excuse me, you’re jumping the queue”, or “Would you like some help with the queue?” No, they just moaned about what our dogs were doing which is doing what they are trained to do. We got out with no difficulty, not once walking into anyone or brushing past them, but just offending them so that they bristled with silent indignation.
You know what? I don’t care in the cold light of day. Last night I did, I felt very small and worried that I had pissed people off, but today I think to hell with it. No one was going to help us leave the concert hall, so our dogs did what they are trained to do and we got out safely.
I didn’t get my badge though, Karma I guess!