The Time I Got Lost in My Boss’s Mansion…

Below is the unedited version of the story I told for BBC Ouch: Storytelling Live at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. You can find the BBC News article here!

rico

(Picture: BBC News)

I think being lost is pretty integral to being a blind person. I’m 23 now and I’ve been lost everywhere – in clubs, tube stations, you name it I’ve probably been lost there.

In this instance however, it was my brand new boss’s house I was trying to find my way out of.

So it’s a Saturday morning, I wake up, I’m a bit hungover, I’m in a strange, unfamiliar bedroom on my own with a dead phone and none of my possessions.

All I remember from the night before is that I went for drinks with a couple of new colleagues, and after a couple of bars, Jay, who happens to be my boss’s son, invites us back to his house in Kensington for after drinks. Fast forward nine hours, and I wake up in this room with no idea where I am with no sign of my new workmates anywhere.
To give a bit of context, waking up in a strange house when you’re visually impaired is quite a unique and crazy experience. I imagine the feeling is similar to how Christopher Columbus felt when he discovered the new world… minus the racism.

Or like how Bear Grills must feel when he finds a new island, but no urine drinking… most of the time…

Basically it’s scary, disorientating and you have no idea what’s around the next corner.
Now I know what you’re thinking, you probably have a couple of questions: why is it so bad? What’s the issue? How hard can it be to get out of a house? How is your beard so perfect when you clearly can’t see to shave it?

The answer to those first questions is that this house was huge! 4 floors, tons of rooms, very difficult to navigate.

Trust me, finding your way out of a disabled toilet without feeling up the changing table is hard enough when you’re visually impaired, let alone escaping from a massive house. Added to this, I had the stress of needing to get home for my baby nephew’s first birthday in just a couple of hours time.
So after waiting around for a hero in form of my bound to be hungover colleague who never materialised, I decided to take things into my own hands.
First, I got out of bed, came to a door which turned out to be an ensuite toilet. Ideal, I needed the toilet and where better to plan an escape strategy than on the toilet? So after sitting there for a couple of minutes I hear an unfamiliar woman’s voice.

“Reece, it’s Jay’s mum. Jay told me you were staying, I was just Wondering if you need anything, as I’m flying off to LA in 5 minutes”

I think the lesson here is that as a blind person, you need to know when to accept help when it is offered, because you don’t know when that help is coming next…

Unfortunately I was so shocked to hear a voice so close by I just said back

“no I’m fine thanks” (with voice breaking)

Mistake number 1, I’d Wasted my one lifeline out of the situation.

To make matters worse, once I’d pulled my trousers up, etc, I was feeling around to try and find a sink, and found another door to the bathroom

Opposite to the one I had come through, a door which had been open the whole time, a door through which Jay’s mum had been talking to me through the whole time.

The bathroom was not an ensuite and my new friend’s mum had been talking to me with my pants down on the toilet.

I doubt she even had business in LA, she was just going to avoid the unbearable awkwardness.
So anyway, dignity at an all time high, I thought what is there left to lose? I’ll go and explore and try and find my belongings.

I’m in a rush to get home and I can’t leave without charging my phone as I needed an Uber.

So going through the bathroom door, I find a hall which is basically a labyrinth with tons of doors coming off of it. I start edging along the hallway.

I did at one point consider some kind of Hansel and Gretel style toilet paper trail situation, but thankfully I decided against this.

Eventually I felt my way around and found a set of stairs. There’s no one to be seen or heard anywhere.

I’m congratulating myself on a relatively smooth run so far until I reach the top of the stairs and clang right into something huge and metal. I’m fully expecting some kind of Home Alone style booby trap to unleash itself on me. However it turns out to be just a terrifying suit of armour chilling against a wall – not what you expect to find on a Saturday morning stroll.

armour

(Picture: Sarah Dousse)

It now occurs to me, I’m in my boss’s house, theirs a lot of valuable stuff around. I’ve only been at this job two weeks. Rampaging through priceless ornaments probably isn’t gonna do me any favours.

A couple of dangerously wobbling vases on a shelf later and I decide to retreat back to my room.

Only problem is I’d gone too far. When I tried to retrace my steps, I found myself in a completely different part of the house with new corridors and new doors.

I found myself in a cloakroom, bigger than any I’d ever been in before. I start feeling up the coats and bags around the walls when suddenly I hear noises outside which sound like footsteps. Now at this point, I start feeling a bit of panic, as I don’t know who it is and I don’t have my symbol cane. I don’t know about most blind people, but I carry my symbol cane around everywhere, especially when meeting new people. Tends to avoid awkwardness regarding missed handshakes or awkward questions like “what are you doing in my house? Why are you rummaging through my bags?”

So I come out a bit sheepishly trying not to look too dodgy. I don’t find a person though, I find a cat.

cat

(Picture: Sarah Dousse)

Now I’m not a religious man at all, but I’m pretty sure that this was a divine cat, sent by the disability friendly gods who saw my time of need.
This miracle of a creature brushed past my leg and effectively led me down a new corridor. It had a cute little bell round its collar and everything so I could follow right behind it.

Somehow, some way, this wonderful animal led me straight into a massive, beautiful kitchen.

There, a housekeeper greeted me – with only a bit of confusion – and pointed me to all of my stuff on the kitchen table: my bag, my charger, my cane. I almost collapsed in relief.

I grabbed my charger, charged my phone, and eventually got out of there!
So yes this story has a happy ending, I made it to my nephew’s birthday on time, I made it out of the house – pretty much by myself – small assist from the mystical cat… And even better, my boss found another one of my work colleagues passed out downstairs on the sofa in his pants, so compared to him, I didn’t do too badly…

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