Wordpretzels, at the moment I spend my Wednesday evenings delivering at a college. Not any college, but one for people with physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries and associated learning difficulties.
As usual, I breezed through the double automatic doors, trolley in tow, and made my way to the reception desk, where Ruth sat.
“Hello,” she said, smiling at me, “please sign in.”
As I was filling in all the boxes on my DIY visitors badge, Ruth asked me what was the purpose of my visit. I was slightly bewildered. I’d been turning up every Wednesday for the past 8 weeks, seeing the cheerful and friendly face of Ruth on every occasion. I started to remember that article, stating that men in their 50s become invisible. It had finally happened, with Ruth, no more than 25, failing to recognise or even remember me.
“Erm – I’m here for the Wednesday maths class?” I replied.
Her face broke into a wide smile of recognition.
“Oh, of course, hello Rob, I’m so sorry” she said.
I smiled back, feeling slightly better about myself and less concerned for her lack of recognition. Also, it was early evening on a clear day. The last bright rays of the sun, lowering in the sky, streamed directly through the windows into Ruth’s face.
“It’s OK,” I said magnanimously, “it must be difficult to see who’s coming in with the sun in your eyes.”
“I’m blind,” she said, nonchalantly.
“I’m blind,” she repeated, “didn’t you notice the sign on the counter?” she explained, pointing exactly to where a notice in a Perspex frame stated:
“RUTH, OUR RECEPTIONIST, IS REGISTERED BLIND. PLEASE MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN TO HER AS YOU APPROACH THE RECEPTION DESK.”
I swallowed hard. The driver of my butterfly brain struggled with the gears responsible for reversing out of a ‘faux pas cul-de-sac’. I could hear the grinding.
“Oh, gosh, yes I didn’t notice your, erm – anybody would think I was – well – erm – unobservant.”
The gears continued to grind. My butterfly brain controller was gurning like a village show champion gurner with the effort of it all.
Ruth continued to smile at me. My butterfly brain stalled. Ruth read it.
“Couldn’t you see I was blind?” she asked.
“No,” I answered honestly, “I didn’t.”
Looking at Ruth, at worse she had what my mother would have called ‘a cast in her eye”, meaning one eye was slightly misaligned. People of my mum’s generation never had a lot of time for politically correct terms.
She seemed pleased.
“Thanks,” she beamed.
There was a moment’s pause, a chance to make my way through the automatic doors. But no.
“So are you completely blind?”
The butterfly brain operator collapsed on the dashboard, weeping.
“Well – yes,” she stated simply.
“Oh! There’s your dog!” I blurted, noticing the big black Labrador dog in a harness looking at me as if I was a fucking idiot.
Ruth, to her credit, continued to smile wanly.
“Well,” I concluded, “have a lovely evening,” I said, collecting my ID badge.
“You obviously do an amazing job,” I complimented her as I headed through the waiting set of double doors.
For a second, I considered trying to make light of the situation by saying “ Well, if it’s worth anything, I’m extremely handsome”.
Somehow, whatever was piloting my butterfly brain lifted its sweaty, tear stained head from the controls and stopped me.
Let’s never speak of this again.