“Sorry, I’m not sure what I have done here.”
“What’s happened? How can I help?”
“Well... has it changed? I am sure it hasn’t done this before, but I think the card is stuck.”
“Stuck? Inside the gate? Ah. Did you put it through like a ticket”?
“Yes, well I think so. But has it changed? What should I have done?”
I try to smile kindly, but with a mask on, I am not sure that comes across. “Let’s try and get it out for you and then we’ll check it still works.”
“Thanks. Sorry. Is it a pain to sort out? I just need to tell my Mum to wait”. She gestures over to a much older woman, in a long coat, staring back blankly. She reminds me of my grandad, with that blank stare and slightly open mouth. “Mum, just wait. He’s going to help me, but just wait.”
She doesn’t respond. “Sorry about this. I haven’t really taken her out for a long time. I haven’t really been out a long time. But I can’t leave her cooped up. She has dementia, but she likes to see the market.”
I smile again. But again the mask. “Well, let’s get this sorted”, I say, as I bash around with the gate. I hate taking the gates apart, particularly these ones, the old hydraulic gates. You drop something, you’ll know about it when it falls on your finger. Half the time you sort out one problem and it just causes another fault.
I can see the Oyster card stuck in the bands that pass a ticket over the rollers and then move it vertically for you to collect. “Oysters aren’t meant to bend too much, but we can probably get this one through for you.”
“Thank you” she says. “But this is new, isn’t it? You used to just put the ticket through this bit?” “That’s right, but Oyster or other cards you can just tap on there. Really the gate shouldn’t let you put it through, but they don’t always do what we’d like.”
“Oh I am sorry, I haven’t been out much, and Mum hasn’t been out of the home, and I just thought it’s better, isn’t it, to get some air, to see people, or she will forget.”
“I understand. Don’t worry, but just next time when you come through, use the card just like she would use her Freedom Pass”. “Thank you. I don’t like to be any trouble.”
“It’s why I’m here. Enjoy going out while we still can. Who knows where we’ll be by November?” Lockdown came in about six days later.