October 11th, 2013
Filling up my car last week at a Tesco garage, I spun round when I heard someone let out a cry of pain. At the side of the main building, an area set aside for disabled parking, there was a man hanging awkwardly out of the driver’s side of a small red car, his legs stuck in the footwell while his backside was planted on the ground. About four feet to the right of him was a wheelchair.
I glanced around at the people who were nearest to him and noticed immediately that most had chosen to ignore him, pushing their trollies furtively towards the entrance of the supermarket or keeping their faces hidden below trunk lids while they hurriedly packed away their shopping bags. However, there were some who didn’t even bother displaying any such sign of guilt or willingness to help and stood at a distance watching him flounder around on the ground.
I had done a pay-as-you-go with a card on the petrol pump, so I just jumped in my own car, drove the short distance over to the disabled area and, having given a hardened, narrow-eyed stare at those who had still made no move to help him, I came up behind him and put my hands under his armpits to get him back on the car seat. Now, he was a big man and I really made no headway at all in the initial attempt to move him. I was certainly not going to ask help from any of those who were standing around watching, so I worked out that if I managed to lift him a bit, I could use my knees and legs as a sort of a jack to get him into the car. I gave a huge heave, pulled his weight onto my knees and slid each foot in turn along the ground, edging my way to the car.
“I’m…” the man said.
“Not a bother,” I groaned, pushing myself hard against the side of the car, trying to get more than half his backside onto the driver’s seat. “We’ll have you in in no time.” I put my hip against his shoulder to hold him in place. “Can you hold onto the steering wheel while I go round and get in the passenger door?”
There was nothing wrong with the man’s arm muscles. He grabbed the wheel and stayed put, but was unable to pull himself into the car seat. I ran round the car and got into the passenger seat and after a few heaves realized I was getting nowhere.
“Okay,” I said, breathing heavily with the effort. “So what I’m going to do is get in the back seat and see if I can’t get more leverage from there.”
The man just shook his head, obviously embarrassed and angry at having found himself in this position. It was a two-door car, so I got out, pushed forward the seat and got in the back, sliding along the seat so that I was positioned behind him. At this point, I noticed that many of those who had been standing watching from afar had now gathered around the car and were staring at us with quizzical, almost zombie-like expressions on their faces. I flicked my head back in derision at their lack of interest in helping and, leaning over the seat, once more took a firm grip under the man’s armpits and heaved him the last eight inches across until he was completely and utterly centrally placed. I slumped back in the seat and sat for a moment recuperating from my efforts and then leaned forward, gave the man a light slap on his shoulder, and said, “There you are. That’ll get you home now.”
I turned to those outside the car with what was probably a smile of complete self-righteousness on my face. They in turn were now smiling back, some were even laughing. I frowned and looked towards the man in front of the car, just as he turned round to look at me.
“Well, thank you very much for doing that, but, for your information, I was trying to get out of the car, not trying to get in. I did try to tell you…”
I managed half a smile at him before pushing forward the seat and getting out, murmuring a quick “Sorry about that” as I did so. I then slunk over to my car, hearing a few audible guffaws from behind me, and drove away without looking back.
Oh well, you get it wrong sometimes. Actually, not just sometimes…