On arrival at the local community hall, I was greeted by the first of a series of short, intensely friendly young women in a uniform I didn't recognise who thanked me for coming, gave me some paperwork-type stuff and a great showbag full of giveaway goodies, then ushered me into the hall to a table with a bunch of also newly-arrived carer folks doing paperwork and counting the free pens in their showbags. I realised I couldn't meaningfully complete the government-sponsored survey on what training I had received or felt I needed as an unpaid carer - because I'm not one in this sense, and some of the other forms were similarly irrelevant, but I could fill out their little registration form. This doubled as my entry ticket for the door prize also, which, as you will have already surmised, I was later to win.
I had been sitting for perhaps 60 seconds filling in the form when a second intensely friendly young uniformed woman came up and asked was I a carer, or did someone "look after me". I realised later that as I am ambulatory, albeit in a unique and idiosyncratic way, on my own minus a carer that my answer very possibly meant to her that I was someone receiving care for a mental illness or intellectual disability. I say this because as I made my way around the various information stalls collecting pamplets I was reguarly checked upon by one or occasionally two of these uniformed smilers who made sure I understood what I was looking at, and that I was at all times cognisant that there was tea and coffee, juice, a wide selection of sweets and foods and should I require it toilet facilites all available in the foyer. I didn't notice anyone else quite receiving the same degree of solicitude. I sort of got into it, and realised that my speech sounds themselves probably help foster the impression. I decided not to play up though. Really, promise I didn't.
Then again, I was probably the youngest there by 10 years at least, and I think the only one who came solo, so maybe they thought I was lonely or something. At most stalls I was pressed to take information however seemingly relevant and now have a much better understanding of continence issues affecting older women. And a new collection of squeezy stress-ball thingies (6 thereof) and pens labelled by all sorts of obscure organisations. I must say though that the Public Trustee pens were so handsome I took a second.
Towards the end of my loop I was again accosted with regards the food (I realised at this point that I was more or less the only one not hoeing into the freebies - they did look far better than your average function food too) and was given a blow-by-blow account of every item available on offer. It was hilarious, like a mechanical tic as I gave a little leftwards wag of my head after each item's name was issued and said "no thanks" cheerily until my uniformed smiling lady sort of paused and I managed to get in
"You see, the thing is I can't eat or drink." To which she congruently replied
"Sure, I'll get you a plate then."
This sort of thing happens all the time with my speech problem. I am constantly wondering what it was that my interlocutor has in fact heard.
I explained again, more successfully this time, about my PEG tube and lack of oral intake and without the merest glimmer of stumble or embarrassment she carried on "oh, well of course then, that's OK!" So I'm glad it was fine for her too, and that she in the end did not feel needlessly rejected.
So later on in the evening, just after the first few items on the TV news, a car pulled up outside. Two of the earnestly cheerful uniformed young ladies come beamingly towards the door holding out my door prize, and I was just a tad disappointed to note it was not my peg-conversation lady. Because the door prize I won (my address was on the form) was a hamper of gourmet foodstuffs in a lovely little basket. Irony! They had a kick-ass SLR digital camera and I had my photo rapidly and repeatedly taken receiving my winnings from one of the smiley ones by another smiley one 'for their own use only' and they were on their way.
What a very amusing afternoon.
Picture for illustration purposes only. Mine was far cooler than this one and Meeta and I laughingly pulled it apart before I thought to take a pic.