Bus driver blues 

We saw the bus pull up and impulsively I said “let’s run for it!” So we ran. My daughter was waving her arms above her head in her excitement and I was following close behind. As we climbed aboard we were both happy that we lucked out and caught a double decker bus. They are my daughter’s favourite but they aren’t very common. Very quickly though my smile faded because as I stepped aboar the bus driver laughed and said “makes me wonder why you need that cane.” It was like a gut punch. I am normally very self conscious about how my disability looks to the outside world because I know I don’t fit the normal stereotype of a person with mobility issues. Much of the time I look normal to a casual observer. But while we were running to the bus I was having a strong moment and I had forgotten what that must look like to others. That bus drivers comment brought a feeling of immediate shame and embarrassment for not appearing sick enough. 

Thankfully I have a well rehearsed answer to questions like that so I turned and told him “I have a neuromuscular condition that causes my muscles to crap out enexpectedly.” Then I walked past him and sat down. Normally we would go up to the top deck but I was still reeling from the shock of his judgement and didn’t want to give more cause for him to question me so I told my daughter we would sit downstairs today. 
As I sat there seething with rage I struggled to pinpoint exactly why I was so upset but as the rest of the evening wore on it became clearer.  

No one has the right to question my use of a cane. True, in that moment, he may have wondered why I needed it but that’s because he saw me in one of my best and strongest moments. He doesn’t see that I can’t walk up stairs and instead have to crawl. He doesn’t  see the days I can hardly walk because those days I’m not on his bus at all. Those days I stay in my house. He doesn’t see that this illness affects more than just my legs. Very few people see the times I struggle to eat, have difficulty talking, or labour to breathe. My whole life is spent finding a balance between the needs of my body and the needs off my family. Sometimes my daughter misses out on opportunities because my body isn’t cooperating. This time though I was glad to be able to cater to her wishes. 

I wish I could have told him all this but the interaction was fleeting and I was flustered. I am glad I had the presence of mind to provide a tiny bit of information, a snippet of education, so that the next time he sees someone with an assistive device that they don’t seem to need he might wonder what kind of invisible illness they have, rather than implying that they don’t have one at all.  

One thought on “Bus driver blues 

  1. nowtnorsummat says:

    Very pertinent as I had a similar experience on holiday last month. I was visiting Las Vegas (very accessible!) and had hired a mobility scooter for my time there so I wouldn’t have to rely on others pushing me in my wheelchair (which I’d used to and from the airport leg of the holiday). Several days into the trip and I’d already noticed that automatic doors were used by 80% of people there (do Americans generally have feeble arms?!) and the crowds using them often blocked access to ramps/elevators which lay just beyond the automatic doors. One day I had the temerity to audibly sigh as I waited for a gap in the crowd so I could get to a ramp. One particular man chose that moment to announce “if you didn’t weigh 400lb you wouldn’t be in that thing”. I don’t think he expected me to say (even louder than he did) “I have MS YOU DICKHEAD!” The irony that a man using an accessible entrance and who was blocking an ACTUAL disabled person from getting to a ramp tried to somehow shame me wasn’t lost on me. So what if I DID weigh 400lb? Would that make me less worthy of consideration? Had I had more time to make a considered response, I might have questioned him more about my worth, his prejudice and why the hell he can’t open a door. It would have been even more sweary though…


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