Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Post: An Entirely Different Kind of Commuting Challenge

Today’s The Train In Vain blog post comes from Christine, a high school friend with whom I’ve reconnected via the magic of social media. She lives in North Carolina, far away from the commuting craziness we in the north live day in and out. Under all that southern charm and polish beats the heart of a New Yorker, and she has a great story to tell.

Christine was in a serious car crash many years ago. She walks with a cane and leg braces, a critical point to the story. Commuting is tough enough. A disability adds a whole other dimension.

I live in North Carolina, so I don’t have many commuting stories to tell, but I do have one that is pretty funny. Since I’m sitting at the auto dealership waiting for my car to be repaired, I’m going to tell it to you.

For a period of time in the late 90s, I lived in Hingham, Massachusetts, which is on the south shore of Boston. I was in school and my husband had taken a job at Lotus (now I’m showing my age… Lotus was bought 1,000 years ago by IBM). At this time, we were living with my in-laws.

Somehow, I developed a problem with my eyes. My vision would go blurry out of nowhere, and several times while driving I had to pull over and wait for it to clear up. I needed a doctor, and I found one at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. I had to take the T (Boston subway system) to get there. My father in law gave me a ride and dropped me off at the T station.

I got out of the car, and watched him drive away. I then realized I didn’t have my cane. Oh no!

You are probably thinking, “just call his cell phone!” But this was the late 90s, and not everyone had a cell phone yet. I didn’t have one. My legs are weak and I wear braces on them for support, but I can walk without the cane. However, I will grab onto any wall, railing, or steady object to ensure I stay upright. Without the cane, I look drunk.

So there I was, caneless, at the T station. I needed to climb the steps and take the train. I had to navigate Boston as as a weeble. Unfortunately, not one person offered to help. TTIV Note: I am certain that in New York, people would have helped. One thing New Yorkers do well is come to the aid of those in need.

I made it to my appointment. The doctor, a neurological ophthalmologist, did a thorough exam. As it turned out, there wasn’t a major issue. My eyes were having an allergic reaction to mascara. I suggested that the real issue was an allergy to my mother-in-law. The doctor agreed it was possible and even likely, but couldn’t say for certain.

The appointment over, I went to catch the train back to Hingham. I simply had to walk out the front door to the street, go one half block, climb the stairs, and hop on the train. I made it this far, right?

Remember the part about the thorough exam? That included pupil dilation. As luck would have it, it was a gorgeous, sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. And there I was, no cane and dilated eyes. A thirty year old woman with her hands extended straight out like a zombie, sunglasses on, blind as a bat. I wobbled drunkenly to the train.

If I wasn't dressed so cute, I could have held a tin cup, collected handouts, and paid my way to Europe for a vacation!

I made it to the platform, but was scared to get on. I figured the doors would crush me. After several trains went by, I got the courage and timing to grab on and pull myself over the platform gap. I made it back to Hingham, where my father-in-law picked me up. He asked me what took so long, but I didn't tell him I let several trains go by or that I'd forgotten my cane. TTIV note: He should have come to pick her up at the hospital, in my view. But hey, this isn't my story.

You can be sure I've never forgotten my cane again. I also never took the T alone again either. Moral? If you encounter a well-dressed zombie approaching the train, look closely. It's probably me. My eyes will return to normal soon.

Thanks Christine, for sharing your story!


Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

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