Hanging out on the passenger side

This, right here, is a Daily Mail scoop waiting to happen.

Any day now I expect a photographer to snap me as I come in from a long bike ride, or all sweaty in trainers and shorts from a run around the reservoir.

According to Colchester Borough Council I am a disabled person. And that entitles me to a few fringe benefits: not least, a free bus pass that could take me from Colchester to Carlisle, without so much as spending a penny. And I get discounted rail travel too.

And people claiming disability benefits – at least on Daily Mail Island – don’t go around doing 60 mile bike rides on a Saturday, or running eight miles through muddy challenge courses to give themselves a winter break from two wheels.

I am reliably informed by one brain tumour charity that I could even claim for a portion of the Disability Living Allowance, if I wished, and get cold hard currency in my back pocket. Only I’d have to stomach the interview real disabled people have to endure these days to get benefits, and, well, I’ve got enough going on.

I’ll leave the benefits, thanks, but my bus pass and railcard I have indeed claimed.

In fact, I am now a regular on the Monday morning freeloader bus: the 67a which leaves from the end of my road and takes me and my son, another freeloader, along with all the additional freeloader disabled people and freeloader OAPs on our merry way into town.

It’s the first off-peak bus of the day, so it’s the first one on which we can all use our freeloader bus passes.

Sometimes I can barely find a seat, what with so many disabled people and frail older people taking up all the space.

But before this turns into the next Tax Payers Fund Cycling Fanatic’s Free Travel Pass double page spread, please let me explain.

It’s not the brain tumour, or even the potential cancer in my skull, that has entitled me to all this travel freedom. It is that I have, thanks to the tumour, developed epilepsy.

And that means I’m not allowed to drive.

Since 30th April 2012, the day after a seizure that was so serious I finally decided to go see my GP, I have been banned from the road.

If you drive a car, consider this for one minute.

How many times have you got behind the wheel in the last seven days? To get to work, to take the kids to school or to an event, to go shopping, to go down the Chinese, to pick up Grandma, to drop off a package at the post office, to pop to B&Q for some wallpaper and some No More Nails.

Now imagine, in the flick of a doctor’s pen, you weren’t allowed to do any of those things by car next week. Or the week after. Or for the next 11 months. At least.

Now, I don’t want to get all Jeremy Clarkson about this: I don’t think my car is an extension of my penis and I don’t think men (or women) should have an innate right to zoom around the countryside in metal boxes.

And my green credentials are probably a notch above a fair proportion of the other inhabitants of my local area, what with cycling so much, our tricycle, our massive compost heap, the re-useable nappies, and growing our own knobbly, worm invested veg.

But I’ve still found having my license removed deeply frustrating and deeply… well, disabling.

I can’t take my children swimming, because the pool isn’t on a bus route. I have to take them to the zoo on the trike, which is a hilly 12 mile round trip and not a little testing for the thighs with only three gears to select from.

I can’t take them to a party, or on a sunny day whim dash with them to the beach for an ice cream and a paddle in the sea. I can’t drive my tipsy wife home from dinner with a friend, or meet her from the late train when the buses have long since quit.

I can’t drive out with my bike to a race, and I can’t drive my family to a coffee shop and let my wife run back to help her get the miles in.

I can’t even nip out for a Chinese, or for a paper, or for some milk, or for some bog roll in one of those oh my gosh, I really need some bog roll moments.

Now I’ve moved to the country, the nearest shop is three miles away. Even our local pub has closed, probably because the landlord got fed up of guys like me popping in to use the toilet when we’d run out of the necessary at home.

But wait. Being frustrated, and inconvenienced, and really really needing the loo doesn’t make me… disabled.

If I’m still able to jump on my bike, or run through muddy puddles, what the Daily Mail am I doing getting a free bus pass and discounted rail travel?

If the papers do come knocking, rest assured I shall brandish my freeloader passes with pride. I’ve got my argument all worked out.

In the UK, every adult has a right to drive unless they forfeit that right by, for example, drink driving or if it is unsafe for other road users to allow them onto the road.

My epilepsy puts me in the second category.

I have not willingly stopped driving. For the sake of everyone else’s right to drive, my liberty to do so has been curtailed.

For this loss of my liberty, unearned and undeserved, I am compensated with free bus travel and a third off my trains… at particular times of the day, on particular routes, when the conductor agrees, and when I meet the specific criteria, and the sun is shining, and the train journey hasn’t been relegated to a rail replacement bus.

Which would you rather have?

The truth is, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever drive again. I have to be seizure free for a year before the DVLA will hand me back my papers. And since my last one was only last week, that feels an awful long way away.

But even if I did get my license back, I’m not sure I’d get behind the wheel.

I’ve had these seizures. I know exactly how capable I’d be of controlling a car going 70 down the A12 on a busy Sunday evening if a seizure came out of nowhere. Not capable at all.

Even with my license in the glovebox, I wouldn’t trust myself to drive my own kids. And if I’m not willing to do that, I probably shouldn’t inflict the risk on your kids either. Or anyone else for that matter.

My wife and I noticed years ago that when there is a choice in couples, it always seemed to be the bloke that drives the family around.

Ever the self-conscious progressives, we tried to take turns in the driving seat when we went out together. Yet we’d often still find ourself ten miles down the road before either of us noticed it was me behind the wheel yet again.

At least now we’ve been forced to make up for all those times. She drives and I sit, resolutely, frustratingly, and boringly hanging out on the passenger side.

(And no, I don’t want no scrubs either.)

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