Reg Cobb: Coping strategies for train journeys

Posted on March 20, 2012

My daily train journey to work and back takes an hour and a half each way.

I justify the length of time by telling myself that it’s ok because it’s productive travel – I try to do my work on the train.

I’m always trying to hog all the spaces around me by setting up my office – complete with a laptop, paperwork, notebook and food. I must have a snack because it’s been a while since breakfast and I eat like a horse.

True, hogging the spaces around your seat annoys other people, but one reason I do it is to deter hearing people from sitting nearby, as I worry that they might start talking to me.

I wouldn’t mind if it was someone who I know or who communicates clearly, but inevitably someone will sit next to me, as one chap did recently, and say something that looks to me like: “cohnl tow juak mok wai peya as doi.” What could I do?! I smiled back, but for all I know, he might have been saying “could you just move your f**king papers and food” with a sarcastic smile!

I have developed a few coping strategies for my regular train journeys.

For example, if there’s an announcement and I cannot hear what the speaker is saying, I just look at other people and study their reactions.

If I see dissatisfied faces with huffed and puffed looks, then I know something’s wrong. This is when I look around for a friendly face without a beard or moustache, (and ideally, nicely shaped lips) to ask them if they’ll kindly repeat the announcement. (A tip for any single deaf people, it’s potentially a good chat-up opportunity if you’re going through a lean spell!)

I also having coping strategies for talking to conductors, but they don’t always work.

Some months ago, I rushed to catch a different train than the one I was booked on and as usual, a ticket collector came round.

In the past, I would try and communicate by speaking as clearly as I could, but it often only resulted in the ticket collector speaking back to me too quickly for me to understand – unaware that I was deaf.

I’ve developed another strategy – that I deliberately speak in a way that is undecipherable for the ticket collector, in order to prompt them to write down what he or she is saying.

Unfortunately, on this occasion I had a particularly grumpy ticket collector. I tried to explain that I needed buy a slightly different ticket than the one I’d already bought, but this time it ended with him shouting at me and giving me a dirty look.

Not the best journey I’ve ever had, but fortunately I was able to get my own back, by making a complaint.

The best bit is when I finally reach my destination. I get off the train and continue my journey by bike. While I don’t have to watch out for conductors, road cycling isn’t always straightforward for a Deafie either…

Reg Cobb is a deaf father of three. Reg was born to deaf parents and went to a deaf school. He’s worked supporting people with disabilities for 20 years and now works for Gloucester Deaf Association. He loves making people laugh and looks on the bright side of life.

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