MS is No Excuse for Being Discourteous When Offered Help


It was a trip, plain and simple, neither my leg giving way nor a fall. It was MS-related because it was directly caused by foot drop; the toe of my left shoe caught on the tiniest ridge at the bottom of a ramp.

My trip wasn’t dramatic, I didn’t end up on my face. In fact, I simply sat down on a small retaining wall of a flower bed, about two or three bricks high. No fuss, Lisa even told me afterward that I had managed to sit down quite gracefully.

After sitting there for about a minute, I could have stood up and continued my way inside the restaurant for our meal and, back in the U.K., that’s exactly what I would have expected to happen.

Not here in Spain, though! No sooner had I come to sit on the low wall than two young men from a group at a table on the terrace, rushed up and helped me back to my feet. But that was not enough for one of them; he was determined not to let go until I was safely seated at a table

I expressed my gratitude in Spanish and he returned to his group outside.

Lisa and I enjoyed our meal, three courses plus a drink and a coffee for just 10€ each (about $10.50, or £8.50), which is nothing to complain about.

Eventually it was time to leave and, as we came out of the door, the same young man who helped me earlier again sprung out of his chair to escort me back to our car. This time, I had not tripped or fallen; he just wanted to help.

We exchanged a few words in Spanish (not too many as I am still learning the language, but enough to guide him to the correct car, make him understand that I needed to go the driver’s side and then to, once again, thank him for all his help).

Like many people who have MS or any other disability, I am keen to be independent. However, not so fiercely that I would be rude or cause offense to anyone offering help. Even those times when I do decline an offer, I always do so in a friendly way and make sure that it is obvious that the offer was appreciated.

You must have come across people who are discourteous when offered assistance, which they reject with a terse “I’ll be all right,” “I can do it,” or worse, “Leave me alone.” These people are doing no service to themselves or the wider community of people living with disabilities.

Yes, I have multiple sclerosis and, yes, I have a disability that sometimes necessitates using a wheelchair. But the disease does not have me, nor has my desire for independence robbed me of basic common courtesy.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

strap-new is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Please smile politely, thank you

ice cream van

It may be an old fashioned attitude but, to me, good manners and politeness are still an important part of everyday life.

Today, such things as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are so often ignored as we go about our 21st century lives.

Sadly for children in our modern society, the lapse in the use of common courtesy comes from people who should themselves be good role models and should also be correcting their offspring for not being polite.

I saw an example of this lapse in the following story posted on Facebook from Joanne, a friend of mine.

She wrote: “So I’m up at the beach and decide to get an ice cream from the usual Mr. Happy go Lucky man, due to the fact there isn’t another one there, and I say with a smile: ‘Could I have a 99 please?’ Expressionless man says ‘£2.20.’ Note, no ‘please’ and this is as he is doing my ice cream. He shoves the flake in and practically throws it at me. I say ‘Have you any red stuff (fruit sauce) please? A very emphatic NO was the reply! If I hadn’t been so hungry I would have told him what to do with his ice cream.

“So I take it back to my car, then a man comes to the car next to me with four ice creams and says to me: ‘How on earth do they do any business here? What an obnoxious man selling ice creams.’

OK, so he may not have been as busy as he wanted but, for goodness sake, at least smile. I will NOT be spending money with him again.”

I commented: “Not a great example of customer relations or good manners.”

And Joanne replied: “No, not at all Ian, but I’m afraid it seems to becoming the norm.”

Is it? I hope not. It does seem to be here in the UK but I wonder about the rest of the world. So many societies have politeness and good manners as intrinsic values but we seem to have forgotten how to make good use of them.

In this guy’s case, he is certainly not doing himself any favours in terms of business and he clearly knows nothing about good customer relations.

When it comes in increasing profits, it’s essential to give attention to existing customers and for an ice cream vendor that means a friendly smile, a chatty attitude and offering each customer that ‘something extra’, such as having the fruit sauce available and offering to add it free of charge – without waiting to be asked.

If he is incapable of doing that, or unwilling, maybe he should find a job which does not involve contact with customers or the public. He certainly appears to find a sales role unfulfilling.

Satisfying existing customers is essential to keeping any business thriving and the way to attract repeat business is to treat all customers in a way that has a positive effect on them.

A simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ would be a good start and that would also be a great example for all children.

• There are other examples of good/bad service and good/bad customer relations that will be the subject of a future blog – or two.