When a person is declared “Legally Blind” a few things happen in the background that most people would never know is about to happen to them. They happen with blinding speed (pun intended). One of the first experiences you get to enjoy in your newly Visually Impaired life is that your driving privileges are revoked. Sighted people reading this may think that is a good thing, maybe it is, although riding around here in Southwest Florida I wonder if sight is a driving requirement.
Just like that, you are a bus rider. I had not ridden a bus since high school, and I don’t believe I had ever in my life used Public Transportation. I prefer to think of myself as a thorough person, my wife says it’s tight ass. Because of this, I studied how to use the bus. I memorized numbers and routes, I had my wife take me to transfer stations, I counted steps, I made spreadsheets, I watched videos, I asked questions and I made practice runs. The bus stop is about 1 mile from where I live. I found my landmarks and determined the traffic patterns. Visually Impaired Persons will understand this, Sighted Persons will never understand this (Bless your little hearts). Finally, I was tanned, I was rested, I was ready. I will conquer Public Transportation!!
I grab my hat, my dark glasses, a water bottle, my backpack, my money for the fare (neatly organized in envelopes, ever the tight ass)and my cane. I find my landmarks, I cross 2 streets, find the bus stop and I’m 30 minutes early. Confidence is HIGH. I hear the bus pull into the lot and make its way to the stop. Air is released as the bus lowers and the door opens. Using the cane I go up the steps, greet the driver and hand him the fare. Without taking it he says, “Money goes in the machine.”
“I can’t see the machine” I reply as my confidence begins to fail me. This was not in my preparations. “I can’t touch your money” says the driver in a agitated tone easily picked up by my heightened senses. Quickly, I thought I would try a little humor to bring him back to my side and save this from becoming a debacle. In my best James Kirk I said “Computer, take my money.” This proved to be a miscalculation on my part. Then he said it. He said it freely and without hesitation. He said, “YOU PEOPLE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ON THIS BUS.”
I am a nice guy, till it is time to not be nice. This Ralph Kramden wanna be just shut off my nice switch. I could feel the muscles in my face changing orientation as my let’s get ugly look overtook me. The tone of my voice changes to a Clint Eastwood style and dialect. I have been told my face twitches. My anger spewed forth and I was unable to control it.
“You People? YOU PEOPLE?? Look around cupcake, because YOU PEOPLE are the reason you have a job. YOU PEOPLE are the ones who pay their taxes so you get a f’ing paycheck. So take my money, put in the machine, and let’s go. Otherwise I go and explain to your boss what a racist pig you are and a few of the highlights from The Americans With Disabilities Act. Then I get my lawyers, Dewey Cheetum and Howe, and I am going to sue the balls off you, the system, and the county. Make your choice.”
My new friend Ralph The Driver chose wisely. He took my money and I sat down. On the ride I reflected on how even the best of plans can be destroyed in such a short period of time. The wannabe I call Ralph doesn’t speak to me anymore, even though I say “Hello” every time, but he does put my money in the machine. There has not been another incident with him. Never talk down to a Crotchety Old Blind Guy. We didn’t get where we are by accident.