Updated: Sep 29, 2018
I just commuted home from DuPont Circle. Unfortunately, the elevator was out of order, which I had already known because I commuted the same route earlier that day. Instead of wheeling toward the elevator like I normally did, I wheeled straight toward the escalators and started to ask some bystanders to help me down. The bystander emphatically shouted down at me saying the elevator was right over there. At the same time, there was a metro station manager at the top of the escalator who said I had to take the shuttle because the elevator was out of service. While the station manager was talking to me, the two people who I had asked to help ran away. The station manager, after realizing that I still wanted to go down the escalator said, “I can’t help you, you have to take the shuttle” and proceeded to walk very quickly away from me.
I wanted to take the escalator instead of the shuttle because it is a lot quicker. It would’ve taken me twice if not three times as long to get home if I had taken the shuttle. They call it a “shuttle”, but it is basically the D.C. public bus that has been redirected to an alternative route. And I knew going down the escalator was not a complicated task to have bystanders help me with because I had done it earlier that day and hundreds of times before in five out of the seven continents around the world.
In the meantime, there were bystanders watching all around me. Nobody asked if I needed help. Nobody defended me. I ignored all of that for the time being and asked another guy who was about to head into the station. Luckily, this guy was extremely friendly and was happy to help. As soon as he agreed to help, some of the other bystanders who were just watching the drama moments ago, offered to help as well. In my head I was thinking, why were you so afraid of interjecting before? I needed them more when everyone was running away from me and acting like I held a gun in my hand.
Once I got down to the station and tapped my metro card to go through the sliding gate turnstile, the card reader said it was out of service. I looked up at the lady inside the booth. She gestured for me to go around (or I thought she gestured for me to go around). So I proceeded to go around to the other side and into the other accessible door flap reserved for situations such as these. Once I went in, a male metro station manager came out of the booth and shouted down at me to go back out, and said I had to go through the sliding gate turnstile. I said I just did precisely what he said and the machine showed that it was out of service. I also added that the lady behind him gestured for me to go around and come in through this entrance. The lady interjected and said, “I was pointing to you [meaning the male station manager]”. I did not see that she was pointing to that guy because he was sitting down. And why is a lady just standing inside a metro station booth, wearing metro staff clothing when the person that was supposed to be on duty is sitting down? And when I looked up at her at the time that I swiped my card, she saw my card was not opening the flaps, so why did she make direct eye contact with me and gestured for me to go around to the other entrance?
Meanwhile, the man preceded to continue to demand, in a very disrespectful manner, that I go out and tap my card to come back in. I told him to rewind the camera and watch how I had already done what he said twice. I was so exasperated that I started yelling, “go rewind the camera and see for yourself if I did not just do what you are telling me now!!!” He goes back inside his booth and closes the door behind me without another word.
Just to add icing on the cake, once I arrived at my metro stop, the wheelchair accessible exit door was blocked off. The two revolving doors, which were too narrow for me to use, were fine.
So what is the point of me telling you this story? Is it to depress you? No. Is it to make you think the worst of human nature? Tempting at the moment, but no. Is it to show you how lazy some people are? No. Is it to show you how fearful people have become of liabilities, which leads to pushing responsibilities around? Perhaps in part. Is it to show how fear can stop people dead in their tracks? In part. Or is it really to make you understand the daily struggles of wheelchair users and have you reflect on how to ideally handle these kinds of situations in a more thoughtful, kind, and helpful manner should you encounter it yourself? Yes! Yes!! And Yes!!!
We all have fears. We are all ignorant when faced with certain kinds of situations, but let’s please face each situation with courage and humanity. Don’t let our fear stop us from being kind, from being proactive, from giving people the benefit of the doubt. As we sink deeper and deeper into the virtual world, we lose touch of the very real human being and rich mind that is right in front of us. Our lives might be perfectly filtered on social media, but real life, unfortunately, does not have rose-tinted filters. We all have our insecurities, our fears, our worries, our not so filtered lives, so let’s practice kindness, patience, tolerance and be as helpful as we can toward one another. Let’s stop photoshopping our lives, stop living according to society’s expectations of us and start seeing the actual realities that are in front of us.