2 August, 2011 15:21

So, it occurs to me that We do actually ride paratransit with quite a few Characters," in their own right. And, yes, for all of you non-pc people, it is like riding "the short bus." But, as an adult, with other disabled adults who are all not able to drive for a variety of reasons, yet must get to work and other various places. But, I am just too old — and obviously, disabled myself, thus, hardlycare what people think of my associations, etc. A perk of age is that we tend to get less embarrassed by the trivial things — or at least, some of us.

Maybe it is because I am pregnant, myself and emotions are high. Maybe it is because i realize that after December, DH and I won’t be riding paratransit together. Or, who knows, but this has started me thinking about paratransit.

Some drivers want to be very personable and really try to get to know their riders. Some drivers have been driving paratransit for **years and remember the ones who ride often. some drivers are quite talkative and like a good discussion with their morning drive. Sometimes, it is the normal rants; such as the pros and cons of progress&technology, an evaluation of the most recent changes to paratransit (which is never good), the disappearance of manners or the least expensive place for a specific activity. No, I don’t get all “BBC/npr” about things and we generally stay away from religion, politics and hot topics. Once, DH and I had an argument and in a rare moment, DH engaged the driver and riders on the bus to see what they thought. I still disagreed, but the driver, a very animated woman (and you don’t need to see to know this) gave a very impassioned sermon for DH’s cause. I wasn’t offended. From this alone, I correctly guessed her religion as pentacostal! (smile) It was an old argument and DH was just surveying the people to see if they thought he did the right thing — which, kind of means, that he he might have been reconsidering the whole issue. It was an issue of ethics / right and wrong. And, I had to smile at the woman’s obvious ferver for the topic.

There are drivers who arrive 30minutes early and expect us to be willing and ready to ride early. There are drivers who won’t let us eat on the bus, even if they pick us up earlier than our pick up time and we have to ride the bus for 90minutes+. There are drivers who drop us off at the wrong house. There are drivers who don’t want to listen when we try to give them directions. There are drivers who talk to us like we are children. There are drivers who don’t talk at all. There are drivers with loud annoying cell phones. There are drivers who get off the bus at every pickup, so they can smoke a cigarette. So much for getting to work on time! There are drivers who take no care when driving over speed bumps and pot holes. Sometimes, I worry if Paratransit is going to send me into an early labor.

There is a worker at DH’s building, who works in production. He also often rides the same bus as we do. He had to go to the bank. It was close to closing time, so I let him go to the bank first. It was my call, because we were slated to be dropped off first. I was so nauseous, it was not funny. But, I know that paratransit would have dropped him at the bank, whether the bank was closed or open. Then, he would have had to wait for another ride. And, to top things off, it was raining outside. DH protested, but I was trying to be empathetic to a 70-yo man’s needs to go to the bank. So, he gets dropped off at the bank… just in time… … .. and what did he do???? Stand outside and smoke a cigarette! I went home, vomited and the next time I saw him, I really let him have it. Needless to say, now, he is super nice to me. But, DH always says: “Hi W., Are you going to the bank today?” (smile) Oh, and the next time paratransit took him to the bank, he actually went in.

There are times when people talk so loud on their cell phones that I almost wonder if they want to engage us in their very private affairs. I even have to elbow DH several times because he does the same thing when talking to his family/friends in Urdu. People are even more agrivated because he can talk very loudly … … the entire 90minutes to work, yet, they “don’t” get the added benefit of knowing his business. (smile) In his defense, due to the time difference, our mornings at about 7:00 is a good time for both he and his family.

The company that DH and I work for employs quite a few blind people. Now, I must admit that most of the blind people are in the lower positions and the higher you climb up the ladder, the more sighted the employees are. I think that there is even a distinguished difference between totally blind and partially sighted or low vision. Nonetheless, we do have a significant amount of employees who are blind.

[side note: there are four departments in my building. In the customer service department, there are two out of five people – one totally blind – who are employed. In the Accounting department, there are two partially sighted people and five totally sighted employees. In the Call Center, there are five employees: one is totally blind, three are partially sighted and the supervisor is sighted. In the sales department, there are two totally blind persons out of the seven employees. There are people in the warehouse and housekeeping who are sighted. The building is expanding and we will probably have more and more of the factory workers over here. All of the blind workers in our building, except the factory workers, are college graduates.]

The factory jobs consist of glove packaging, auto parts packaging, medical kit assembly and packaging, a document solution/printing shop, And a sign shop. We also provide brailling for signage and documents. Most of this work is done in the building DH works in; which also houses their “rehab department.” DH works in the rehabilitation department, where he teaches computer skills to newly blind individuals. That specific department is staffed mostly by blind individuals. Anyway, some of those employees also have other disabilities. This company use to be a “sheltered workshop,” but now it has expanded and no longer pays workers by the piece. In any case, they employ many different workers and although they do have quotas, there are some workers who are just not capable of making them. They still make the same amount of money, etc. I believe they make $8 an hour. But, they have the same amount of benefits that management has.

[another side note: the top two workers in production, as it relates to output, are from Africa: Eritria and Sudan, respectively. And, just to further enlighten those who believe in Stereotypes, the very top worker, is Aweti, a *woman. She has held this title for more than a year and doesn’t plan on relinquishing it anytime soon].

I try to be respectful and kind to all of the riders, regardless of how much they annoy me. There is the woman who uses her loudest baby voice to ask me the same questions about my dog, every time I see her. I think that she secretly likes (although argues with incessantly with) the guy who boldly and tactlessly tries to bed almost every woman he meets. There is the narcoleptic who remembers every number under the sun (of course, when she is awake and alert). She can also remember the exact date and time that someone stole her pencil in the first grade. Her and her best friend like having the same conversations and trips down memory lane on a very consistent basis. Repetition makes the heart grow fonder. There’s the diabetic woman who, after seeing my yellow lab guide under my seat, went into a full blown speech on the benefits of making the Pit Bull an endangered species by means that Hitler would certainly be proud of. I Thanked God that my Ghetto fabulous pregnant seat mate, who owns a cute and cuddley harmless pitbull was a bit more serene than usual on that particular day. There is one guy, C. who is kind of an autistic genius. I don’t know if he is autistic: (that diagnosis gets thrown around about as much as ADD), but he does have some mental limitations. Yet, he knows greetings in many many different languages. He always says “asalam–o– laykum,” to DH. He is always asking about Hebrew language. He knows greetings and words in German, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Zulu, Tagrinia, Sudanese and now, Urdu. He is not good with pronunciation; he sounds like his dentures are constantly slipping – although, he doesn’t wear dentures. but he makes up for it with his memory. I have met C. a few times because the company sponsors a local “ToastMasters” group that I have attended. He has taken on roles such as grammarian and Toastmaster. He is the Sergeant of Arms and does remember all of the rules. He can be annoying. Like when he insists on being the ToastMaster’s timer. He does not know how to operate a stopwatch and can’t write in print or Braille. Consequently, his duties as “timer,” consists of repeating the times that the actual timer loudly whispers in his ear. This annoys me because, honestly, if he doesn’t operate the stopwatch, and if he doesn’t write down the specific times of each speech, then, really, he is not the timer. Nevertheless, I was just impressed with his memory and interest in DH’s language.

Concluding, have you ever felt like you are surrounded by characters from a compilation of books? Well, that is just our lives.



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