Well, I’ve been roaming around Oxford for about 18 days, so here is my take on the locals.
From a wheelchair perspective, they are less inclined to allow you to pass, more apt to try to climb over you actually, especially to board a crowded bus. No special treatment, you are just part of the crowd. The double edge on this, is there is a great deal more general tolerance for older or slower moving individuals everywhere. As a result, any random crowd of people will contain some or several older individuals. Even in a college town, doubly crowded with walking shoe-clad tourists, and jammed with bicycles up the wazoo, old people thrive. Some are into their 80’s and 90’s, waiting for buses, alone, on walkers and in wheelchairs, just hobbling along on the cobblestones, existing as part of the UK world. Maybe its because society here has that much more respect for these older folks and their surviving the last couple of bombarded generations intact. Whatever the reason, they add to my day. Wrinkly faces with well-worn smiles reflect an assurance of time passing and sure survival, no matter what my immediate crisis may be. I find it refreshing and comforting.
Also, I notice more greenery here—more flowers, not in special places for decorative purposes. Just there, as part of the landscape, blue and purple lavenders, bright red poppies, shades of yellow, burnt orange and pinks abound as part of the everyday world. I am new, so I notice; but, I also think the locals not only notice but take pride in their beautifully ancient and blossoming surroundings. They enjoy the beauty of their landscape and are a bit smug about it as well. We Americans do not, or at least do so on a much lesser scale, in New York City anyway.
As a flip, they seem to tolerate many things that we do not– ever–a three-hour line to see someone at a bank to open an account, a half-hour wait to order a cup of coffee, 15 minutes in line to buy a newspaper. As I grow impatient with these things on a daily basis, I wonder if their tolerance for these mundane annoyances helps build a tolerance for the older person on the street or the wheelchair user in the crowd. Culture to culture, differences are evident. So too, sameness abounds.
So far, Oxford has greeted me well, embraced me slowly, and tolerated me fully. As I wait on one more queue to find out information on one more insignificantly trivial thing, I hope my patience holds out and I can return the feeling.
Cheerio for now! From Oxford with love.