I just wanted to go to the store, to pick up some things I needed. I decided to take my wheelchair. I won’t lie, I wanted to hatch some Pokémon. I also wanted the chance to browse the hardware store for some odds and ends I need to finish up my room. It was a treat for myself – getting the chance to explore the store more than is otherwise possible for me. I even arranged to borrow a bus pass.
Earlier this week, the temperature dropped and I am still adjusting to the sudden cool air. Additionally I hadn’t really taken into account how the speed of the chair, adds some extra wind to the chill. Either way, I made it to the station, and awaited the weekend bus.
A few minutes before the bus arrives, a group of young people arrived. Soon afterwards the bus arrived. As sometimes happens, the bus when it arrived was pretty packed. People had to be warned away from the doors to let people off. The bus driver hollered to get them all away from the door. I am sitting there in my chair in front of the doors.
Everyone is pushing in, so even though usually they drop the ramp first, I am forced to wait. At this point I have a bad feeling, and it’s proved true as I notice the driver doesn’t lower the ramp once people have boarded.
“I can’t get on then?” I ask, as the driver starts to drive away, still closing the door.
He stops, and opens the door asking me to repeat myself.
“Can’t I get in?” I ask again. The front of the bus looks pretty busy. There are people standing, but still, there could be space I think to myself. If people were willing to push back a little. The bus driver looks back and says that it’s too full and drives off.
As he does, I notice that what I thought was a packed bus, is busy yes, but not full. It turned out it was a double bus, and the other half had no one standing in it. There could have been room for me, plenty of room. All it would have taken was the driver to tell the people to move back. They’re not supposed to crowd the entrance anyway.
There are moments, when you can actually feel exactly what someone is thinking of you and how it is supported by society. My time didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. I wasn’t worth the effort of asking other people to move to the back, though he had had no trouble barking for people to get out of the way of the abled bodied, or at least more mobile, people coming out of the bus.
Why was my time worth less? Why was it ok to make me wait on one of the coldest days so far? Especially given that the bus system was running on a weekend schedule, meaning I would be waiting in the cold for the very least a half hour. Consider that I had already been waiting about that long, while those who had gotten on the bus, had only just arrived.
My time was deemed less important because it was assumed that being in a chair, I had no responsibilities or deadlines. That inconveniencing me was no big deal when compared to the possibility of inconveniencing real people.
Not being allowed on that bus by the way, made it impossible for me to complete my errands. By the time the next bus came, the store I wanted to go to was closed. By the time I got home, I was chilled all the way through. I had to thaw out before I could make myself dinner; a much more daunting prospect than had been anticipated previously, since I had meant to pick up one or two missing ingredients while out.
It’s an annoyance, but not being allowed on the bus, by itself, might not have been a big deal. But not being allowed on the bus, for no GOOD reason, that hurts. It reminds me that because people treat my time as being worth less, if not altogether worthless, that bringing an accessibility device with me also means being prepared to be treated as less than.