Thursday, October 19, 2006

Public transit story #12: Differently abled

Last week I rode the bus next to a gentleman of indeterminate age. His face suggested he was about 35; his hair suggested he was about 50. He had with him a garden-variety cane, the hollow metal kind with the grey rubber handle. We were sitting in one of the supposedly accessible seats at the front of the bus. A lot of people (particularly readers of the Berkeley Daily Planet) are quite pissed about these seats, which are more than a foot off the floor of the bus. Those who are at least 5'7 can slide on and off these seats with little trouble. We shorter folk don't fare so well--even yours truly, who though still young and limber has actually fallen off the seat. Not cool.

But enough of that rant.

This gentleman of indeterminate age spent most of the trip fiddling with his cane, pressing it up against his chin and such. He peered about the bus in a peculiar way. Then, as we neared the Berkeley Bowl (which would be the coolest grocery store ever if it weren't always packed with crazy people who push their carts north while looking south), said gentleman of indeterminate age extended the handle of his cane toward the call button. He pushed at the button with the handle of his cane several times in a most uncoordinated fashion, but the "stop requested" sign did not light up.

As befits one who works with adults with severe mental illness, these days I pretty much automatically observe and mentally catalogue behaviors, especially non-normative ones. I'd watched this guy fidget, look around his environment weirdly, and demonstrate poor hand-eye coordination. He was in a seat reserved for people with disabilities. He had a standard-issue cane. I guessed he had some kind of mobility impairment plus a neurological something-or-other.

"Is your stop next?" I asked. He grunted. That seemed to be a "yes," so I pushed the call button for him and moved out of his way (narrowly missing falling off the accessible seat). Again, he grunted.

And then this gentleman of indeterminate age walked off the bus with perfect grace and danced down the block, twirling and tossing his generic cane as though it were a wooden rifle and he a member of a high-school color guard.

1 comment:

rachel said...

color guards don't TWIRL they SPIN :-P