Thursday, 26 November 2009

In praise of little knobs

For our American friends, it's Thanksgiving, and at Toastmasters last night, this was a topic upon which I was required to produce an impromptu speech (something they will keep picking on me for, gobby show-off that I am!).

Anyway, I was asked to describe a single experience this year for which  I was thankful. Now, this was quite difficult for me, not because there weren't any, but because there were loads. Don't panic, I not about to bore you with some soppy list of stuff for which I'm gushingly grateful (health, family, friends, a job, the internet, cheese, yadda, yadda). Just take them as read, OK?  In the end, I talked about blogging and not being fired and produced two minutes of purest drivel, but that's by the by.

What I am grateful for is something I didn't even know existed until today.

I was out walking with my good friend Don't Feed the Pixies when we came to a busy road junction. Now, in England, we have pedestrian-controlled traffic lights where there is a little box with a button which can be pressed to get the lights to change and stop the traffic. This is one of the finest inventions ever in my book, but that's not what I'm on about.

For me as a partially-sighted person, crossing the road is really tricky so these crossings are a real boon. Sadly, I can't usually see the green walking man sign light up - they're usually positioned on the opposite side of the road, beyond my visual range. I generally have to peer at the "wait" sign just above the button on my side until its backlight goes out, then I know it's safe to cross. Some crossings have beepers for visually-impaired folks, but most do not. On sunny days, it can be really hard to tell when the wait sign has stopped being lit up – that's assuming some idiot has not vandalised the thing in the first place which is all too common.

Now here's the thing.

DFTP mentioned that underneath all the button boxes on these crossings there is a little knurled knob which rotates when it's safe to cross. If you place your fingers on it, you can feel it turn and feel confident that you can cross without becoming strawberry jam.

So, today, I'm thankful for a friend thoughtful enough to relay this information and also for whoever it was that came up with the idea in the first place.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. That is brilliant! I never knew that.Why doesn't everyone know that? Not that I even live in Englo, but still! Must check the lights here.

    I also wondered if your blog title was about my Corfu streak ;)

  2. I meant post title, but looking agian either would fit !

  3. Somewhere, an engineer is sleeping well at night.
    Here in Canada, there is an audible signal as well that lets you know if the light is still green, but I hope you never have to rely on your ears alone!!

  4. I never knew such a thing exsisted!.. you learn something new every day.. actually, I'm trying to think of the last time I used a pedestrian crossing......... back in the summer in Cork city I spose???... My god!.. I don't get out much *mild panic attack..

  5. Good heavens, me neither! Knew about it, I mean.
    I'm glad DFTP told you about it. And you told the rest of us about it.
    I must tell Beloved, his eyesight is pretty ropey.

    Talking about blogging as a good thing? It's damnably addictive and stealing all my reading time!

  6. @TFE - I couldn't possibly comment, not with Mrs Eej being so deadly with the ham and all.

    @Deborah - I think I would like Canada, it sounds like my kind of place.

    @Watercats - Are you telling me that I'd have to risk life and limb if I was to try to cross your boreen?

    @Friko - Blogging is a real time-stealer alright. I honestly don't know why the whole population is not aware of the little gadget under the lights.

  7. I tried this on the newer, smaller boxes after our walk and it's still there - bottom right hand side. True you don't know who else has used it, so best to take a wet wipe - but am amazed to think that no one had bothered to tell you about it before!

    You have my various BSL courses and specifically my other half to thank - because i never used to know it was there either!

  8. @Micjael - Yes, DFTP does indeed rock!

    @DFTP - Thanks "other half!"


Without your comments, I am but a wave without a shore...