Once again I come to this blog with tales of woe about Passenger Assistance at Nottingham train station. You may have read past entries about people nnot turning up but now they are clearly trying a new tactic. This is, meeting passengers then starting an argument with them!
Saturday I travelled to Bristol Parkway so booked assistance. I know many blind people would just advise me not to bother with it but finding trains is easy enough but finding your seat is so much easier with sighted assistance, or at least it should be.
I was met at the barrier at Nottingham station and everything was going very well until we reached the platform where the conversation with the gentleman concerned went something like this:
Me: We need to find first class please as I have a first class ticket.
Him: There isn’t any first class on this train.
Me: That would be surprising as I was sold a first class ticket.
Him (after wandering away): No, there isn’t any first class.
Me: It’s usually at the very front or very back of the train and is a small compartment.
Him: It’s not on this train.
Me: Could you possibly ask the train manager please?
Him: Can I see your ticket? Ah there is no seat reservations so it doesn’t matter where you sit and this isn’t a first class ticket.
Me: There were no seat reservations but this is a first class ticket, I have paid for it so that I have more room with my guide dog so I would like to sit in there please.
He eventually went away again and strangely enough, located first class and all was well. Phew, what a carry on, but this paled into insignificance after my experience today when returning to Nottingham.
Today’s conversation went something like this. Different man today:
Him: Hello Mrs Griffiths, where would you like to go? (This was starting well).
Me: Please could you take me to the steps of the middle bridge where I’ll know where I am and I’ll be fine from there.
Him: I can take you to Station Street if you like.
Me: Thank you but that won’t be necessary as I know where I am once on the bridge and in fact I am going to catch a tram.
Him: You can’t get to the tram from the middle bridge.
Me: You can, If you turn right at the top of the steps, left at the end and up some more steps you come out at the tram level where you have to double back on yourself a little way to get to the actual tram stop.
Him: No you can’t go that way?
Me: Have the steps been closed off for some reason?
Him: No, there aren’t any.
Me: There are, I’ve been up them.
Him: You must be getting confused with another station.
Me: No I’m really not, could you just take me to the bridge?
Him: No, you have to go up the lift to the concourse. I know because I work here.
Me: Please just take me to the bridge.
Once at the steps I suggested he followed me to see where I meant but he didn’t. Maybe it was because I’d told him not to be so patronising to people in the future.
Maybe he was waiting for me to come back down with my tail between my legs and say “You were right, oh wise one, how could I have been so stupid and blind?”
Of course I did no such thing. I walked the route I’d described, went up some very real steps that did not take me to fairy land where all blind people can see and there’s no need for station assists! At the top was a very real tram which took me to my very real job in my very real life.
I can honestly say that I have never been spoken to in such a way by a member of station staff. I was even starting to doubt myself. Maybe there was another bridge that I hadn’t seen before? Of course there wasn’t.
I really don’t know what he was thinking but a complaint will be winging its way very shortly.
My point is that assistance should be just that. Not an opening to bully your customers into doing what you want them to just because you have some misguided notion of what’s best.
Someone with less confidence and more orientation issues than me could have been totally confused and undermined by that person today.
The guy on Saturday was really just an annoyance, probably because he just wanted to put me in the first available seat rather than allowing me to have a view on where I wanted and had a right to sit. The guy today, however, was dismissive, patronising, rude and lacking in knowledge. Clearly presuming that I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about because I can’t see.