It was California cold last night – in other words low 40s. Mac and I waited the length of a presidential primary for our bus only to be told when it arrived that the lift was broken and we had to wait for the next one. We got home from our 5:30 movie at 10. On the way back a crazy man ranted about black on white racism on the transit system, while sitting next to me pretending to be talking on a cell phone. This included telling the “person” on the other end that he would lose them in the tunnel. Method acting meets crazy. Once through the tunnel he turned his sights on me. He told me I had beautiful hair and not to worry because he “doesn’t hit on people.” “Well that’s great,” I reply. Now when you’re in a wheelchair on the bus you can’t move away from the crazies as you are literally strapped in place with grappling hooks, which are impossible to remove on your own. Of course crazy man got off at our stop and said cheerily to the black bus driver “Bye! Sorry you hate me for the color of my skin!”
And that was the good ride.
The way there, the bus driver tried to not pick us up at all despite us both waving and being right in the bus stop. She was genuinely pissed at having to deal with me. When part of the lift wouldn’t drop she refused to help move it. “Are you really going to make me do this myself?” I asked. She shrugged. At every stop she slammed on the breaks so all of us – especially me – flew forward then whipped back. Unflappable Mac was so mad at how she treated me he took down her bus number.
Still, I greatly prefer the bus or BART to Paratransit which is bumpier and takes 4 times as long.
Not complaining – just sharing. Wheelchairs, my Muselings, are not for sissies.
Handicapped bathrooms don’t have handicapped doors. Opening the door anywhere is a chore.
The bathroom mirrors are too high for a wheelchair.
Most restaurant tables are too low for my legs to fit under them completely so I don’t get close enough to the table - which, since I spill a lot, is a drag.
One step makes a restaurant or store inaccessible.
The shelves and racks at many stores are too close together for a chair to easily pass. I often take out a rack as I pass.
The sales counters are at neck level.
I sometimes wheel a block only to find that there is no curb cut and I have to go back where I started or “jay roll” and risk that a motorist doesn’t see me.
SUVs often don’t see me either way so I have to be extra vigilant.
If the elevator in my building is out, I’m stranded. If there’s a fire, I have to scoot down 3 flights of concrete stairs on my bum and hope I can open the exit door.
I never thought about any of this. It never occurred to me that someone in a wheelchair couldn’t spontaneously pick a restaurant or go for a walk or that travel routes, accessibility and bathrooms had to be carefully considered. I never realized every time my car butted out past the driveway that I was inconveniencing and possibly endangering the scooter lady down the street.
And if it’s a hassle for me, how much worse must it be for people without my support network? I have more help than most folks in wheelchairs, I’ll bet so for me this stuff is only a minor inconvenience. Imagine if you lived alone without a super squad of friends to help you.