Is there anyone in? Of course it’s a silly question. I can see them all sat at their desks on display to the world in the estate agent’s office. All three seem to crane their heads yet closer to their keyboards so as to appear unaware of my futile appeals.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m the local nutter about to disrupt your day. My wheels are going to come off my wheelchair – worst of all, I’m going to make a scene. Isn’t it obvious to me that I can’t get in? After all, people like me don’t buy houses.
But then again, maybe I don’t know what you’re thinking. Perhaps you imagine the wheelchair is just another vehicle I can pop on and off, just like a car. Yes, I know that the ubiquitous mobility scooter has become an alternative mode of transport for some. But for others like me it’s not an alternative: I inhabit this space.
Eventually the embarrassment threshold becomes too much. After a hurried office tête-à-tête one hesitant manager approaches the door.
“Can I help you?” she says
That’s the wonderful thing about the English language. You can say exactly the same phrase in so many different ways. Intonation is everything. In this case, it is the dreaded ‘rising intonation’ at the end of a question. Let me explain. You may have noticed that with a ‘falling intonation’ the questioner is looking for more than simply a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. They are inviting you to explain your difficulties and how they might genuinely go out of their way to help you.
But the ‘rising intonation’ is an altogether different beast. It is a rhetorical question. In this case, ‘can I help you?’ can be translated as:
‘Move along please, you are causing embarrassment’.
‘You’re either lonely or muddleheaded. But we are busy trying to sell houses.’
I give the only reasonable response that my failing wits furnish me with:
“I’m looking to buy a house”
The office manager looks somewhat bemused. This does not fit with the stereotype of chair-bound malingerers.
“Can I bring out a few properties for you to look at?”
It’s a bit cold outside – and wet. I’m not sure that I’m that keen to divulge my financial interests to the rest of Prestwich. I’m a bit funny that way.
“So I can’t come in and discuss things?” I say
“Well as you can see we don’t have a ramp, I’m sorry.”
I don’t know how to respond to this. Should I bring to her attention the latest government report that says you are turning away one in five potential customers because they are disabled. It’s what is called the ‘purple pound’. Did she know that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion.
You know what? I’m not going to spout on about the ‘purple pound’. After all, surely we’re more than just an economic unit. Has it come to this? Even if we are the paupers of society, isn’t this a question of doing the right thing? It’s not about getting a good deal (reminiscent of a Cameron-esque way of seeing things)- it’s about belonging.
Anyway, as far as her stereotype of wheelchair incumbents being unhinged and unpredictable I’m not about to disappoint. After all, aren’t we the positive deviants: the social conscience that you can’t ignore?