The lord help anyone shopping in a mobility scooter on Black Friday if a Tuesday morning in Norwich is anything to go by. I am new to using a scooter and, up until then, I had only pootled about in charming Suffolk market towns, which has been largely pleasurable.
My wife and I stayed in Norwich for a few days as a short winter break. Although I am able to walk short distances with the aid of a stick in familiar and easy situations, such as a hotel, I need a scooter for longer journeys for all the usual reasons.
We are both very familiar with Norwich and it is a favourite city but I had not been back since I had started using a scooter. Public buildings such as the cathedral, Norwich castle museum and the Sainsbury gallery were very well geared up with largely faultless facilities for the less able. I had a great time revisiting these and other old haunts.
As an experiment I decided that I would attempt to buy some thermal socks in M&S on my own, whilst my wife went off elsewhere. It was an intriguing experience that I am reluctant to repeat. I have no complaint against M&S as access was possible, with one exception, and the staff were helpful and personable.
Men’s socks were on the second floor so the first task was to negotiate the lift. I found it easily enough and waited patiently for it to arrive. As soon as the doors opened and the lift had disgorged its passengers, the people behind me surged forward, filled the lift and off it ascended leaving me high and dry. My new cloak of invisibility was working well. I tried again and failed. On the third attempt some kind people made sure I was given priority and up we went. There was no intentional boorishness by anyone I met but it was quite evident that only persons of a certain age noticed that I existed.
Arriving at the second floor I felt like a small child in a field of long grass. All the clothing loomed over me and I was totally disoriented as I could not see any signs from my lowly angle. I tried to negotiate the maze to find the socks but finally I gave up and asked a member of staff. The socks, to my dismay, were on a mezzanine floor that, of course, meant the use of another lift.
This lift was a single person device that had a manual door at one level but an automatic door and the next level. I could not open the manual door from my scooter and had to ask a customer to help me. Once in I had to hold down a button during the complete ascent/descent for it to operate which could be an issue for some. This is my only complaint against M&S; why make access easy on one end of the lift’s journey but not the other and why have to hold down the button?
Faced with a forest of socks and underpants I tried to find the section for thermal socks. In my attempt I just avoided felling a personable fellow customer and having exchanged a few friendly remarks she found the thermal section for me.
Once more I battled with the single person lift and scythed a path through the forest of garments to the payment desks. That part went quite well and so did my descent to the ground floor, yet again negotiated with the kindness and goodwill of fellow customers.
I am sure that none of the above is news to any of you who have kindly read these witterings thus far. In fact the experience was not altogether terrible but merely a novel one for me from a totally alien but increasingly familiar perspective. With the exception of the retail fuelled frenzy to scale the lift at all costs, I was largely met with consideration. I did my best to be cheerful and personable throughout it all. Despite all that, it will be on-line shopping from now on as its limitation certainly outweigh the experiences of front line consumer combat.
I had been very apprehensive about the holiday but I am glad we went and I am certainly looking forward to another short break in more clement weather, MS permitting of course.
Thank you for your time.