No – not a tribute to the therapeutic powers of alcohol. Sadly, nothing to do with a good night out.
The fact is, I’ve been legless – or lacking one effective leg – for over a week now. Two Saturdays ago I bloomin’ went and broke my ankle – and I’m just realising how much I took for granted before I began staggering around on crutches.
I’ve got about six weeks of this lined up, and I’m learning something new every day. I should be a genius by the time they take the plaster off.
You may remember that maths-and-logic puzzle about the man who has to get a fox, a chicken and a sack of chicken feed across a river. (No – I don’t know why he’s transporting a fox. But don’t get distracted.)
He has a rowing boat, but there’s only room in it for him and one other passenger or item. He can’t leave the fox and the chicken together, unattended. And he can’t leave the chicken alone with the chicken feed. What’s a chap to do?
Clearly, the best answer is not to go around with such a stupid combination of items in the first place, but we are where we are.
Well, I know just how the fox-and-chicken carrier feels. Right now I’ve got one working leg and – thanks to the crutches – no spare hands. And I live in a three-story house: ground-floor office, first-floor kitchen, second-floor bedroom. I need to use them all.
So how do I get from the kitchen down to the office carrying a book, a mobile phone, a laptop, a cup of tea and a pack of oh-so-essential painkillers? And before you say ‘pockets’, note that my only trousers voluminous enough to accommodate the plastered calf are pocketless (they’re called loungewear, right?).
It took me a day or two to figure it out, but now I take a plastic carrier bag everywhere. Whenever I want to change locations I put the things I need in the bag, grab the handle in one of my crutch-gripping hands, and off I go. Fortunately, I haven’t needed to carry a fox and a chicken down to the office yet. And, sad to say, it doesn’t work with the cup of tea.
But those stairs.
Can’t hop up them on two crutches – misjudge by an inch and you’ll be on your back in the hallway with another leg busted. But after some experimenting I discovered how to do it with just one crutch. The banister rail acts as your other crutch, and you use it to haul yourself up while using the real one as a support on the other side. Why couldn’t the Daleks work that out?
But then – you get to the top of the stairs, and where’s your other crutch when you need it? At the bottom of the stairs. Arrrghhh!
So thinking cap on again. Solution: as you do your one-crutch ascent, you keep your gammy side properly supported and, with your other hand, slide/throw the second crutch up as many stairs as you can. Then you catch up with it using the one-crutch-and-banister-rail technique. Repeat as necessary. You’ll arrive at the top with a friendly second crutch waiting to welcome you. Reverse the process for your descent.
Showering without getting the plaster wet? Bin bag and masking tape. Getting out of bed? Sideways roll, unbroken foot down, crutch in easy reach. Carrying a drink across the room without spilling? One crutch supporting, one hand holding drink, one foot sideways-shuffling like Chubby Checker doing The Twist (so no hopping).
The whole business has given me a new perspective. In the advertising game we’re always trying to put ourselves in the mind of our audience. If we can do that successfully, we communicate effectively. But if we’re aiming at an audience that’s Not Like Us, we can never really assume that persona. We can only try to understand it from a distance.
Usually, we do that pretty well, otherwise only footballers would be writing Ferrari ads and oil barons scripting central London property campaigns. But just now I’m experiencing what it’s what it’s like to be unable to do the simplest things without a huge effort, if at all.
So I feel even higher regard for the genuinely disabled and those that care for them.
I have greater personal insight into the daily obstacles faced by anyone with practical, physical problems. I can share the consequent thought processes. I’ve a much better grasp of how new products, developing technology and simple but inspired initiatives can help. And if I’m producing creative work in that sector I’ll be communicating more directly and effectively – because I understand the audience better.
And respect them infinitely more.