Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Riding (The Bus) While Crippled #1


Now if you follow me on Twitter (@j_mobile) or we're friends on Facebook (jolhporter), you know that I am a proud user of public transportation. Especially here in the King County and Seattle area where EVERY bus is wheelchair accessible. Also, seeing as my parents are the only ones that I know personally that own a wheelchair accessible vehicle that I can use, the bus is my only other option to get around. So for the most part, I love public transportation. Now notice I said "for the most part." Because, also if you follow or are friends with me on the aforementioned networking mediums, you also know that riding the bus has it's negatives. But while everyone will experience not-so-pleasant moments on buses, being in a wheelchair definitely "enriches" one's ride in my opinion. With that being said, I figured now would be a great time to give my readers a little insight on what riding the bus while crippled is like.

Let me first just say that I have been riding buses my whole life. It started with what some refer to as the "short, yellow bus" when I was in elementary, middle, and high schools, and during that time and now completely, King County's Metro bus system. In other words, I'm a seasoned coach traveler. But one of my earliest, and most interesting stories took place when I think I was in about 3rd or 4th grade. Now for those that aren't familiar with the "short, yellow bus," this essentially is the bus that people that the school deemed "special" would ride. Now the use of the word "special" is a topic I'll talk about later, but essentially people with physical and mental disabilities, and behavioral issues rode these type of buses. These buses usually are smaller, allowing fewer riders to be packed into them, and the type I rode also had wheelchair lifts and designated spots to strap down wheelchairs. To be honest, I never had that much of a problem with these buses. In the morning they picked me up in front of my house, and dropped me off at home after school. Actually, since these buses usually had to leave school at the end of the day earlier, in order to clear up space for the "normal" buses, I preferred them since I got to leave class 5-10 minutes early everyday. The only thing I wasn't the biggest fan of, was the fact that on these buses the wheelchair spots were in the very front behind the driver. So in other words, I couldn't face anyone I wanted to talk to unless they were in the wheelchair spot across the aisle from me. And also, what kid wants the feeling of an adult looming over them the whole time? On top of all of that, I knew the back of the bus was the bumpiest part, and being a typical boy, and I felt I was being robbed of that experience. Be careful what you wish for right?

So like I said earlier I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade, and at this time Laidlaw, it's First Student now for all you youngsters, started introducing wheelchair lift buses with wheelchair spots in the back. For lack of better word, I was pumped! I just dreamed of getting a bus where I finally got to sit in the back. Then the following summer, my dream came true. I had signed up for a summer swimming camp, and the bus that I was assigned to was one of these buses. I actually also had the same bus driver that I had had during the school year, so the day he pulled up he already knew I wanted to sit in the back since I always questioned him about not being able to do so. It might not seem like that big of a deal to some, but being able to sit in the back where it seemed as it I has free from being monitored by the driver was huge to me. And I must say it lived up to my expectations. I could talk to all the other kids without yelling, and it felt like a roller coaster every time any bump was hit. But like I said, I should've been careful for what I wished for.

One day during the same summer, I once again was on the back of the bus headed towards the community center pool at which my camp was located. I'm not totally sure, but I feel like on this particular day, I was the only kid on the bus. Figures. Still, being 15 feet away from the driver was awesome. So we were headed down 23rd avenue, when all of a sudden, BOOM! I know it only lasted for 1 second max, but that second seemed so incredibly long. Shit felt like I was in the Matrix, and this was long before the Matrix even existed! We had hit a pothole, and what a pothole it was. Looking back, I'm glad I've always been the type that wears a seatbelt. Especially this time. When we hit the hole, I literally bounced up out of my seat about 8-10 inches. I just remember during that split second thinking "this shit is gonna hurt." And I'm pretty sure "shit" is the word I used in my head at the time. When I came down, my assumption was right. That shit did hurt. The driver must've seen something, because he then asked me how was I. Trying to be a tough guy, I held back the grimace and assured him I was fine. It wasn't until the next day that I realized how bad the pain really was. Do you know what it feels like to have a severely bruised tailbone when all you can do is sit? It sucks. Everyday all day, for about 2 weeks, every hour felt like 2. I'd lean, rock, slouch, anything to relieve the pain. The doctor I saw about 3 days after the incident just told me to take ibuprofen, but still, since it's not like I could stand up to give me some reprieve, I just had to deal with it. Eventually the pain went away, but since that day I never sat in the back again. There was no way in hell that I was going to risk that happening again. Life went on, I healed up, but I've never forgotten that summer. Until that day, all I wanted was to sit in the back. Well I've been there, done that, and you can keep the damn t-shirt. You think you know what a real pain in the ass is? Cripple Please!
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