I’m running to Cambridge rail station with a rucksack on my back and a suit bag on my forearm. I’m going to Balliol Medical Society’s annual dinner and, as usual when I’m setting off anywhere by train, I’m late. This tends to happen when you think of yourself as living next to the platform. It’s never as close as it seems.
There is a small commotion going on in the narrow, car-lined street. Nearest to me, at the front of the fuss, is a taxi, behind it a red sportscar, and, behind that, White Van Man and his sidekick, Bobbins. White Van Man is shouting, “Come on! We haven’t got all day!”
I have slowed down to a brisk walk because the woman he is shouting at is crossing the path ahead of me at a steady pace. She lives just up the road from me and is, as usual when I see her, accompanied by her two little girls. She has a white stick. One of her girls says, “That man’s very rude.”
As she finds her way between two parked cars, my neighbour replies, “I know, dear. A lot of people are.”
The driver of the white van continues to shout. The driver of the red sportscar is quietly waiting behind his wheel. I walk up to the other side of the van and tap on the window: “She’s blind.”
Bobbins mouths, “Wha?!” and winds down the window.
“The woman you’re shouting at is blind.”
Bobbins turns to his glorious leader. White Van Man clambers higher out of the window, “Sorry, love, we didn’t realize!”
I start running again.
It’s the day after the dinner. I’m sitting outside my hotel waiting for the taxi to take me to Oxford rail station. I am perched on the low wall of the drive, facing the road. The hotel is hosting a “psychic event”; to my left is a poster board promoting it. Immediately in front of me is a shiny new Mini, as re-engineered by the Germans into a vehicle that won’t leave you a quadraplegic if you hit something while driving it.
On the dash of the car is a disabled parking display card with a rotating indicator to show how long the handicapped driver will be away. “I bet that’s handy round here,” I sneer, wondering to myself just how physically challenged the owner is. The only person who’s ever found it easy to locate a parking space in central Oxford in the last twenty years is Inspector Morse. I tell myself to have a more generous view of humanity. The weather is warming up nicely after all.
Within a few minutes, three late-thirty-/early-fortysomething women round the corner, arguing and laughing. One of them is complaining that her “guide” got “everything” wrong. The others are countering with descriptions of their own, more accurate, “readings”.
“Have you had a psychic experience, then?” I ask, looking up from my newspaper.
“You could say that,” one of them answers as they get into the Mini, still debating whether or not they got their money’s worth.
Sure enough, the driver has mobility problems. If, by “mobility problems”, you mean she isn’t quite up there with Michael Jordan.
I’m not cynical; I’m just cursed with powers of extra-sensory perception.