Belfast Telegraph

Why selfish mums with buggies drive the rest of us round the bend

By Lindy McDowell

We're on a bus in Los Angeles sitting well down from that section at the front which is reserved for wheelchair users. A young woman in a red jumper - she's about 30 - is sprawled across a couple of the seats up there.

The bus stops to pick up an elderly couple one of whom, the man, is in a wheelchair. The driver helps the old lady push the chair aboard and parks it securely. He looks across to Red Jumper.

"Would you mind moving to let this lady sit down?" he asks politely, pointing to the sign that the two seats she is draped over are reserved for the disabled and elderly.

Red Jumper gives a yelp of fury. "Go away," she tells him. Or words to that extent. "I ain't movin' for no one", she adds.

The driver shrugs. The old lady shuffles on down the bus.

A shocking display of ill manners, you might think. It wouldn't happen here. You think?

I've been on buses in Belfast where there's been what you could call extreme baby buggy congestion and have seen young, able-bodied parents similarly refuse to get out of the way of other passengers with limited mobility.

Obviously there's a limit to the number of buggies which can be accommodated at one time given that some of these things are now about the size of a Massey Ferguson.

Occasionally, very occasionally, a parent will lift the child out, collapse the buggy and make room for others that way. But since it's a bit like collapsing a tractor into flat pack format you can see why they're not that keen.

So what happens when a wheelchair-user tries to board but all available space is already taken up with the pushchair version of 4x4s?

Do parents automatically fold their buggies? I wouldn't be too confident. I've seen disabled and elderly people forced to negotiate their way around glowering mothers with pushchairs which could easily have been moved. In fairness, I've also seen mothers leap to their feet and shepherd elderly passengers into the seat they were sitting on and move buggies to make sure they were comfortable. The vast majority are considerate. It's very much the minority who act like selfish pigs.

But the selfish pigs have just scored a legal victory. In a case in England, a bus company has successfully appealed against a judgement which previously awarded compensation to a disabled passenger denied access to one of its buses.

The man was in a wheelchair. The driver had asked a mother on board to lift her baby out of the buggy and collapse it to make room. She refused on the grounds that the baby was sleeping.

The outcome of the appeal (which in turn may be appealed at a higher court) means that effectively a bus company cannot force someone to move from a space designated for the disabled or elderly.

Common courtesy you would think, might mean such a situation is unlikely ever to arrive. But that's to reckon without that minority of pig ignorant pushchair parents with their outsize buggies and their outsize sense of entitlement. "I've got a child, me. I'm moving for no-one. I've got rights."

You sometimes wonder if these "rights" (including special parking bays at shopping centres) aren't encouraging the notion that toting a child around entitles you to special status and preferential treatment above even those with limited mobility.

On a purely logistical level I remember when my boys were small you could buy, for a few quid, a fold-up buggy that was a dream for bus travel. As light as an umbrella it was as easy to open and close. A sharp kick and it folded to the size of a walking stick.

Whatever happened to the lightweight buggy? Whatever happened to common sense?

But more important, while we're on the subject of the sort of bus boorishness that left a disabled man stranded at the bus stop because one sour, selfish mother wouldn't wake little Diddums, whatever happened to common decency?

Grumpy Cat should be feline very good

Oh, for a photogenically disgruntled-looking household pet. Ever since she first hit Facebook, Grumpy Cat, the name is a clue, has been coining it in for her former waitress owner.

This week it's reported she's earned somewhere in the region of £64m. £64m! The figure is disputed as enormously exaggerated.

But even a 10th of that would keep you in Whiskas for good year or two. And the cat is only three years old. If she's the feline equivalent of Kate Moss she could be modelling for years and years to come. Even more money in the kitty.

I don't think we've a date for the diary

Buzz phrase of the week - clear the diary. David Cameron, we're told has cleared his diary for this week's talks on never-ending Stormont impasse.

Enda Kenny has similarly cleared his diary. Peter Robinson - important boy! - says he has asked his officials to clear his diary.

So with all these diaries cleared can we now look forward to celebrating a date in the near future when local politicians finally get their act together, get down to it and get on with the job for which they are paid (very handsomely)? I wouldn't clear my diary ...

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