Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Standing room only

Since the last two blog entries were on the negative side, I'm going to take on a lighter tone today.

Quite often, there are some things that happen on public transit to me as a wheelchair user that are both ridiculous and funny – and sometimes it is hard to believe some people can be so clueless. One such thing happened to me a few days ago.

When a wheelchair user gets on the bus, it is common knowledge that people who are sitting in the priority seats in the wheelchair bay would have to relocate. Simple, right?

Apparently some people think even simpler than that.

In this particular incident, which happened a few days ago, I got on the bus, which was quite crowded but not full. The people in the priority seats simply stared at me, not realizing that they had to move. I have encountered this reaction before so I was not completely surprised. The other standees shifted over to make room for me. The driver, who was having trouble seeing through the bodies, asked if I was "in" yet. Obviously this meant whether I was in the wheelchair bay yet.

To my surprise, a few standees around answered that I was indeed "in." I was in the aisle. Of course, I quickly responded that no, I was not "in" yet.

After I did get "in," someone apologized to me because he did not realize that was what "in" meant. I asked him what he thought it meant. He was visibly embarrassed to admit that he thought it meant that I was in the aisle. I was confused. He explained further, "I thought that wheelchairs can be in the aisle as long as there is room, like how I'm standing in the aisle because there are no seats." He quickly added, "I guess I wasn't thinking."

To my surprise, several other people around him also admitted that was what they thought and that they, too, were not really thinking.

This was not the first time experiencing something like this. Though extremely rare, there were several incidents similar to it but in those other cases, there were no words exchanged (simply actions). Before that person explained it to me, I did not realize that was the rationale behind the standees simply shifting over and the people in the priority seats remaining firmly seated.

At first I was in disbelief at how THAT was the explanation for the two or three times I encountered that type of situation. But as the embarrassed passenger stared at me, I realized how ridiculously funny the whole situation was and started to chuckle. The mood lightened as a valuable lesson was learned.

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