Offering A Seat To The Invisble

I have recently discovered that my walking stick has magical abilities, for it offers the power of invisibility.
This is especially true when travelling on a tightly packed bus, where suddenly, I am no longer apparent by those already seated as the view outside the window becomes the focal point of interests. They may see a flicker of a metal frame, the hint of a weary woman, but then the grey buildings soon become great architectural designs that need their full attention and the busy roads become a place of deep contemplation as I vanish from view.
Sometimes a few kindly gents will see through it’s magical capabilities and offer me their seat instead, but like sightings of the much fated multicoloured Unicorn, these occurrences are few and far between.

Occasionally the spell of invisibility wears off and I am once again seen, but on an already crowded public transport, eye contact is made only briefly before then being averted, whilst heads are quickly bowed.

I remember vividly the time a woman got on the bus. I watched the veins in the back of her hand bulge from the pressure she was putting on her crutches in order to support her frame, something that happens to me way too often. Passengers watched as she scanned around for an empty seat, but whenever she caught someone’s eye, POP! She she would vanish. People promptly became enamoured with their phones, or felt a strong compulsion to talk to the stranger next to them, or to once again, gaze wistfully outside the window at their gloomy surroundings. I asked if she was okay and she told me of her disability and how much pain she was in. We swapped stories about our conditions and that’s when I noticed that not only were we invisible, but that all the passengers had developed magical powers of their own. The power of selective hearing.

But this doesn’t just happen to those of us with walking aids, it can happen to anyone with an illness that doesn’t present itself in an obvious manner. Take my friend L who looks like the ‘perfect picture of health’. Sitting at the front of the bus on seats which are labelled for the elderly or those with a disability, she was set upon by a man who told her that she needed to get up and offer someone else her seat as she ‘didn’t look ill.’ Of course he didn’t know of her brain tumour or the various operations that she underwent. He hadn’t a clue as to all the other health problems that left her deeply depressed and rendered her bed ridden, but by the end of the journey, he soon did and left the bus looking rather sheepish.
That assumption is something that most of us face on a daily basis. The fact that illness is something that needs to be evident in order for it to quantify as being real.

Last year, after much research and feedback from passengers, Transport For London unveiled that they would be introducing badges for people with an invisible illness or disability. The blue badges simply reads, ‘Please offer me a seat.” The problem is, our invisible conditions make us just that, invisible. If people can see a walking stick, or a struggling person and still turn away, are they really going to suddenly take notice of a blue badge? My walking stick marks me out as being different and in a world where physical illness is still seen as a stigma to some, do I want to compound that difference by wearing a blue badge?

A few weeks ago, I travelled across London for a medical appointment. The journey took over an hour, most of which was spent standing. By the time I got to the hospital, I could no longer walk and my spine felt as though it was on the verge of collapse. No one on that bus would give me any kind of eye contact. I could even sense the unease of those that I stood close to as they stared out the window rather than look my way. Old fashioned values no longer prevail. The rules no longer apply when it comes to offering up your seat to the elderly, pregnant women or the disabled, and in a way I completely understand that. people pay a lot of money to use our public transport system so why give up their seat? Well I can think of four reasons. Kindness, compassion, empathy and just plain old good manners.



7 thoughts on “Offering A Seat To The Invisble

  1. Lily, I am so sorry that you had to stand so long getting to your medical appointment and that is happens so often. 😦 Old fashioned values really don’t apply anymore. It’s just sad! It really is like being invisible.

    I agree with you about the blue badge. Labeling people as different like that is not the way to go and anyway, would people really behave any differently and give you a seat just b/c you’re wearing a badge asking them to do so?

    I have seen people act exactly the way you’re describing. They will avert their eyes when they don’t want to help or give up their precious seat even for someone who needs it more than they do. The man who told your friend to get up b/c she didn’t look ill was so ignorant and I’m glad he left sheepish after being corrected. All illnesses cannot be easily seen physically. Too many people make assumptions based on nothing more than superficial ideas of what something is supposed to look like or be like. I have many times given up my seat on buses and trains for those needing it. It’s just the right thing to do! It’s the way I was brought up but maybe people aren’t being brought up with those values anymore. 😦 xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Madilyn, it makes me so angry sometimes. It’s not even the fact that they don’t offer a seat, it’s the way that I am deliberately disregarded. I don’t know which areas the badges were tested in, but in Central London, I definitely can’t see that working. If my journey is short and I see someone who needs a seat, I will always offer mine. Like you said, it’s the way I was brought up. As for that guy who ranted at my friend, I don’t even think the stop he got off at was his. He was simply too embarrassed after my friend laid into him about his assumption. And you’re absolutely right. Too many people make assumptions based on nothing more than superficial ideas of what something is supposed to look like or be like. The world still needs educating when it comes to invisible illnesses and those in chronic pain.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really sad that good manners seem to have disappeared, but I know what you mean. However, in smaller urban areas there are still remnants of them left. Personally you would probably be better off carrying a large sign that says your contagious with a deadly virus – they’d stampede out of your way. We are such a selfish species.

    On a side note – I don’t know why, but I thought you lived in America!!! Duh Me.

    I hope Easter delivers you something that is enjoyable, whether that be chocolate, sweets, wine, savoury, an unexpected boost of energy, or simply that thought that we care about you. Lots of love.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Claudette, you’re so right. If I go to any small area, I’m always pleasantly surprised that manners still exist.
      Well if folk are gonna act like i’m a card carrying member of the Bubonic Plague Society, I’d better get to work on making that large sign.
      Haha! Whatever made you think that I lived in the US? I thought my base language and coarse humour easily gave me away as a Brit.

      Thank you, And I hope that Easter brings you all of the same lovely lady. 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

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