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 Wheelchair Journeys - a blog by Ron Coleman

Being a proper Charlie

Ron has decided to write a regular blog entitled 'Wheelchair Journeys', here is his first ever submission...enjoy!


Being a Proper Charlie

 Traveling with a wheelchair is not easy at the best of times but being called a Charlie because you are in a wheelchair is certainly not easy in fact it makes me feel very uneasy. We all know what the phrases being a Proper Charlie, or a right Charlie means don't we? You don't know well let me tell you.

According to A right Charlie or a proper Charlie is British slang for a fool or idiot and dates from around the 1930s, there are three main theories about the origin suffice it to say none of them are very nice indeed all of them are vulgar. All three are rooted in rhyming slang and refer to Charlie Hunt, Charlie Smirke (Berk), and Charlie Ronce (Ponce). Of the three Charlie Ronce is thought to be the weakest with Hunt and Smirke being the more favoured of the origin stories. A Charlie was also the name used by the American military for the Vietcong during the 1960's.


Imagine my surprise then, when waiting in my wheelchair to be boarded onto a plane from an ambu-lift I heard the person in charge of my transfer talk into his walkie talkie saying they were about to board a Charlie. Well, my name is Ron so I looked around for Charlie but there was no-one else with me apart from my wife and she has never to my knowledge been known as Charlie. From then on I listened to the language they used in Airports much more closely. I heard the word Charlie a lot. It seemed always to happen when I was in the care of Airport Assistance. I quickly (well not so quickly) realised that I was the Charlie then the real shock came when I discovered that I was not the Charlie my Wheelchair was the Charlie I was in fact no-one my Wheelchair now defined me. I was now to all intent and purpose Charlie No-one.


I want to put on the record that I have found the assistance staff excellent and courteous, so I don't criticise them as people, rather I criticise a system that has not thought through the language that is used. Some will no doubt accuse me of political correctness, my best guess about them is that they do not live their lives in a Wheelchair.  



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