It took a massive 20 minutes to register at the local sports centre today. My doctor has prescribed exercise for me, which means I have a special card that lets me swim for free as often as I like, for three months. So I took along all the relevant forms, signed by my GP, and was treated like a leperous freeloader by the tubby wench on reception.
To begin with she eyed me with suspicion, trying to suss out what on earth could be wrong with a middle-class twenty-something girl with nice shoes. Secondly she peered very, very closely at the doctor's signature, suspecting me of fraud, I think. She flashed me a look that said 'well, you don't look depressed'. Perhaps I should have messed my hair up a bit, scratched at my arms and walked into the reception wailing and beating my fists upon my chest. She might have believed me then. Because that's what all depressed people look like, you know. Mental. Then she made me sit in the corridor with all my swim gear in an ASDA carrier badg while she fetched some gladiatorial fitness instructor, who barked instructions at me about when and where I could go with my free invalid pass. I am NOT allowed to swim after 6pm. I am NOT allowed to use the gym then either. I am NOT allowed to attend fitness classes for free.
I did try and tell the man that I didn't want to use the gym anyway, as I hate it, and can use the pool during the day on Mondays and Fridays, because those are my days off work. But I didn't really get the chance. I felt really confused and depressed after all this, because I only want my free swimming and didn't ask to be so much trouble. It's not even like I'm a freeloader. I work, even though it'd be perfectly easy for me to be signed off onto Incapacity Benefit or some other such thing, and to have all the other benefits (Housing, Council and suchlike) that go with it. I could do that, and fester in a council flat watching Trisha every day and getting even more depressed. But I don't. I work and pay tax and the only other help I receive for my bipolar disorder is medication. Which I pay £6 odd a month for.
Luckily I finally got the chance to have my swim and felt a lot better once I'd exercised all the confusion away. As I walked out I gave a really cheery wave to the receptionist, who sneered at me again, doubting me to the last.
I love public facilities. I really do.