Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bitch, bitch, moan, moan

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad Mac took that bus driver's number. Apathy is bad enough - what's really reprehensible (and incomprehensible!) is putting so much energy into being hateful. Just thinking about it gets me all kinds of worked up. I hope the movie was good! Sarah (devoted reader of your blog)

Anonymous said...

Carla, may I forward this to the city council where I live? I have an ongoing fight with them about sidewalks and cuts for wheelchairs and the lack or location of. They actually feel that if there is a driveway within 30 feet of the corner that counts. Well the particular one I beef about is then 30 feet back UPHILL for the wheelie to get to.... They should all have to spend a week in your wheels taking public transit....
I am sorry this terrible time is made worse by these incompetent louts.
Thank goodness for your support network, awesome son and sense of humor.
My heart is with you.

Carla Zilbersmith said...

by all means forward away!

Anonymous said...

I live in a 55 and over neighbourhood where, recently, they installed the wheelchair friendly sidewalk ramps. I was amazed at the complaints from neighbours who felt they were completly unnecessary. I will direct the complainers to your blog so they can see the real need.
Good for Mac, I hope the driver feels the results of her repulsive behaviour.

Pat H.

Anonymous said...

If I didn't hate that bus driver, I would actually be scared of the amount of things someone with the brilliance of Maclen could do with that information.

Do I smell homicide? I'll be back tomorrow to help him out.

Wally said...

That sucks in a big way. The scariest part of the whole accessibility issue is that the Bay Area is supposed to be one of the most accessible areas of the country with Berkeley being the best. To think that your experience is a good one would be stretching the bounds of reality more than a little. I hope that bus driver falls and breaks her hip and has to be in a wheel chair for 2 months.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. Just 3 months on crutches for me and I learned a lot about accessiblity. I had some really nice bus drivers on my comute to the city - but I had one who would take off before while I was trying to scan my pass. I expressed my dismay the first time. He says, "is it that bad?" My witty response: "I AM on crutches." Has HE ever tried to walk on a moving bus on crutches! Oh, yes the ranting comes easy. Hang in there Carla, and keep us posted. Laurie