Using mass transit, for some, is a “green” activity. Something they do to help the environment and lessen congestion on roads.  Most people get to the station, hop on the train or bus and get to their destination with no problems.  Others use mass transit out of necessity, either we can’t drive or can’t afford a car, so public transportation is the only option. People with disabilities can, occasionally, have a slightly different experience than others.

My usual commute begins with being jerked forwards, backwards and side to side until I have a minor case of whiplash (people don’t want to be inconvenienced in the morning by having me tumble onto the tracks). Then, I get to board the train and do the great seat hunt.  Obviously I can’t sit in the seats designated for the elderly and people with disabilities because on one side I have a mother who parked her stroller, with child strapped in, in front of the empty spot beside her, across from her is the gentleman who is asleep with his malt liquor resting comfortably in the seat beside him, on the other side of the door is the Woodward Academy student who is sitting sideways in a gentle repose reminiscent of a Venetian painting and across from her both seats are piled up to the ceiling with the luggage of the passenger on his way to the airport who is sitting in the center of the train.  I quickly have to decide who to piss off. I can: a) toss some luggage to the side, b) crush the legs of the private school student, c) move the stroller/child aside or d) move the bottle of alcohol and risk being used for a pillow for six stops. I usually go for option “b.” Occasionally a person will stop me and give up their seat, less occasionally the student doesn’t move their legs in time.  I then travel for six stops where I am panhandled, prayed for and preyed upon for information (I think of these as the 3Ps ). People prey on me for information by asking rude or insulting questions: “Are you, like, 100% blind?” “how many fingers am I holding up?” “IF you’re blind how can you use an iPhone?” I eventually disembark the southbound train head to the platform to go east.  The original process repeats itself for the second leg of the trip: pull, seat hunt, 3P, then disembark. Upon leaving the train I often get questioned as to whether or not I know how to get to my destination, if I’m alone (which is a creepy question), asked if I want/need an escort and am offered an arm for assistance: “I’M AT TWO O’CLOCK!” (when in fact they are at 10 o’clock, perhaps they’re more used to digital clocks rather than analogue).  This whole process repeats itself at 5pm only the people are more awake and “helpful.”

Things can get more complicated if you have to use the elevator.  Aside from there being a perpetual puddle of urine in ALL of the elevators (don’t believe me? Hop into a MARTA elevator and see for yourself) a couple of stations have dropped all pretense and installed those pucks from urinals that smell of mothballs to detract from the smell.   One time (brace yourself, this gets a little gross in a moment), I was getting in the elevator with my roommate (who is a wheelchair user) and I heard him exclaim. Being visually impaired I didn’t notice what he yelled about until the doors had closed.  Someone had smeared feces on the wall of the elevator (I have photographic evidence). I’m not too proud to admit that, had I seen it earlier, I would have jumped out leaving him stranded alone in that moving toilette bowl. Unfortunately I wasn’t visually quick enough to abandon my friend and roommate and opted to take a picture instead.  The bodily deposits left in the elevator are bad, but the rude people that crowd inside the elevator because the stairs or escalator are too strenuous or emotionally damaging, are sometimes equally as bad.  In an ideal world people with walkers, wheelchairs or other physical disabilities would be given preference, in reality, however, it’s dog eat dog, a Darwinian battle where only the most aggressive win a prized spot on the elevator.  I’ve told my roommate he should just blindly plow into them, I think a scoop installed on the front of his chair is a reasonable modification.

These experiences, (with the exception of everything I wrote about the elevators) is a (very slight) exaggeration. It’s not always that bad, but it’s rarely a quiet and peaceful ride.  What are your experiences with mass transit? (exaggerated or otherwise)?



People with disabilities have the right to be independent, make decisions for themselves, have access to their community and to achieved goals in life like any other individual. disABILITY LINK is committed to promoting the rights of ALL people with disabilities.
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One Response to Commuting

  1. frnklin2001 says:

    I’m wearing a brace for a sprained knee currently, and as I try get around the GSU campus am amazed at the students who don’t even notice it (it’s bright yellow, for Cthulhu’s sake) as they push past me to get on the elevator I had to take or just get through a doorway. Let’s face it. Some people are pigs.

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