The Herald, Scotland (UK)
Friday, October 19, 2007
So, this blind guy walks into a revolving door...
By IAN HAMILTON
My first challenge when staying at an unfamiliar hotel is, believe it or not, finding my way into the building. If the hotel has a revolving door my guide dog, Moss, will see it as a hazard and refuse to move. I'm standing there on the pavement wondering why he's not responding to my commands.
It is only when a passer-by mutters something about a revolving door that I understand why the dog won't budge. I now start to coax and eventually bribe him to step into the gap while the door is slowly spinning. Not easy for a dog to co-ordinate such a move. In the past, I've resorted to picking the dog up and carrying him in. While listening carefully for the moving swish of the revolving door, I grab hold of the dog, and step cautiously into the gap. Timing is crucial. So is a small dog. Unfortunately, I've got a five-stone labrador. The door picks us up like a hurricane and flicks us into reception. Paws, luggage, bits of fur and I land in an undignified heap - what an entrance. Anyway, I'm in the first challenge in this game has now been completed successfully.
The second challenge awaits; I'm in the reception area, now to locate the desk. You would think after making an impressive entrance like that, someone would notice. But no. Listening carefully, I strain my ears for a clue. Perhaps someone will say: "Can I help you?" Nope. Maybe a doorman will come over and point me in the correct direction. No! Eventually a phone rings in the distance. "Hello, Elvira speaking." Aha! Moss and I make our way towards the voice.
Elvira asks me for the registration number of my car. I'm standing there with my guide dog - I doubt that she has even glanced in my direction. A porter takes me along endless corridors, two sets of lifts, and a rope swing, eventually ending up at my room.
The dog thinks the room is a park. I hope the carpet isn't green. The second challenge has been completed now the third challenge. Getting into the room and finding my way about.
The porter opens the door with the plastic card, quickly points around the room and tries to leave. I force him to stay and explain every detail and layout of the room, which includes how to open the door. I never know which way the card should go in. I've spent many an hour in hotel corridors trying every possible combination. Now I just get the receptionist to punch a small hole in one of the corners. This way, I know how the card should be inserted.
I find that I have been given the disabled room. I can understand why they do this. However, the facilities a blind person needs aren't the same as someone who is a wheelchair-user. The room is huge and it takes me literally 10 minutes to find the bed and a chair and another 10 to find the window. I hear the dog quietly snuffling about. He thinks it's a park. I hope it doesn't have a green carpet or we could have a spillage.
That reminds me: it's now time for my fourth challenge: where is the bathroom? After wandering around the bedroom and whistling loudly I come across the sort of echo only ever heard in a cathedral or a bathroom. It was designed as a wet room, which is great, but it is so large it takes me a further 15 minutes before I collide with the toilet.
Now, unbeknown to me, there was a button at waist height just outside the bathroom door. It was to allow wheelchair users to open the front door from a distance.
I strip off in the main room and feel my way back to the bathroom. I have a great shower, but as I come out again I walk into that button, which activates the front door. Little did I know, that as I dried myself, the extra-wide front door had very smoothly and silently opened, exposing my naked self to everyone going past. It was only some days later when a colleague was pressing the button, out of curiosity, that I discovered what had been happening.
My penultimate challenge is to close the curtains, so that I don't expose myself to the whole city, as well as everyone in the hotel. The room has electric-powered curtains, which are operated from the side of the bed. Very luxurious and practical for a wheelchair-user. However, the only way I can tell if the curtains are open or closed is to get up, make my way across the room and physically feel for myself. If the curtains were open, it would take another five minutes to find my bed again and activate the button and, of course, being completely paranoid now, I was never convinced that they worked, so I would have to get up and check for a second time.
At last, my sixth and final challenge: sleep. I collapse into bed, exhausted, with the day's challenges whizzing round my head. I have to find a way of calming the mind to get to sleep Oh, no! I've got to find my way down to breakfast in the morning. I'd better get up now.