Ruth texted me earlier to ask if I wanted to join her and some mates for a drink tonight. The only thing that put me off was the journey. I wasn’t sure if I could face travelling across London, especially after last weekend. But I wanted to see her so I set off for North London to meet them.
The tube journey was going well until one stop before Angel station where I planned to get off. But then the driver announced that the station was closed due to flooding, so I got off at Old Street and went up the escalator.
I approached two members of staff who were standing together by the ticket barriers and asked one of them for the best way to get to Angel. He ignored me, so I asked again, but he turned his back on me to speak to another passenger. I moved round and explained that I had Tourettes Syndrome, that if I was swearing or making unusual movements they were not directed at him, and that I just needed some information. He looked at me and said, “I’m not giving you any fucking information.”
I was shocked and asked him why he’d sworn at me but he didn’t answer and moved away. I tried again to explain about Tourettes but he continued to ignore me. I realised that trying to make him understand was pointless and it would be best to try and find someone else to help, but the other member of staff had gone away.
I tried to get through the ticket barrier, but when I swiped my freedom pass it didn’t work so I had to go back to the same member of staff and ask him to let me out. He said he would let me through when I stopped swearing. I started to cry and said, “I can’t stop swearing, I’ve got Tourettes Syndrome.” He moved away and left me in tears, stuck behind the barrier.
I felt humiliated and didn’t know what to do so I called out to anyone in the ticket hall for assistance. I shouted, “I need help to get out and this man isn’t helping me.” Most people walked past and I began to sob. A woman on the other side of the barrier came over and asked what was happening. I couldn’t tell her straightaway because I was so upset. The member of staff who’d refused to help me pointed at a side gate and said, “Tell her to go over there.” I walked round and spoke briefly to the woman who’d helped me.
When I stopped crying I approached the ticket office to make a complaint and get the directions I wanted. The man at the desk listened politely and said he’d call the station supervisor. He turned out to be the member of staff who’d gone away when I first asked for directions.
I explained that I had Tourettes and described what had just happened. I asked him to write down the name of the member of staff who’d been so rude to me, but he refused saying he didn’t have to give it to me. He went on, “If you want to make a complaint, you know the station and the time.” I asked if he would write down his own name, but he said, “You can see it here,” pointing to his badge. I asked him again and he reluctantly wrote it on the back of an old receipt, but only his first name.
I left the station and found the quietest place I could to call Leftwing Idiot. To start with I described what had happened calmly, but as I repeated what the man had said I broke down again. I didn’t feel like going out anymore and couldn’t face getting back on public transport. I decided to take a cab home. I called Ruth, and sadly she understood all too well how it felt to be treated in this way.
The cab came and as soon as I got in I began to explain my tics to the driver. Before I’d finished he stopped me and said, “You’ve got Tourettes. No worries here – my best mate of twenty years has Tourettes, you’re in the right cab.” And I was. He was brilliant, and by the time I arrived home I felt much calmer and more cheerful. I went to Leftwing Idiot’s and hung out with him and some other friends.
I can understand that if you’ve not met someone with Tourettes before some tics can be challenging. But it’s really not on for people working in a public setting to be disrespectful and unhelpful.
I’ve already written a letter to Transport for London to complain – it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.