Saturday, July 26, 2014

Time to Get Rude?

I have to say, that I have never met with outright rudeness on the part of sighted people until yesterday. Ignorance can cause a myriad of sins. Ignorance can even cover up rudeness and most of the rudeness I have encountered from sighted people over recent years has been the kind that is fostered by ignorance. The kid, usually a teenage boy who sees me in a crowded shopping mall and decides to test my eyesight, and for his pains gets bumped when I don't peel off to one side. The motorist who decides the crosswalk is the stop line not the mark for his back wheels. Those I attribute to ignorance.

Yesterday, I encountered the basest form of ignorance, the willful kind. The "I know that I want to make life hard for you, but you are blind so it's ok."

My wife, Leif, my guide dog and I, had traveled out of town on the train to meet my wife's parents for a nice day, and it was a nice day.

The return journey was delayed because the train was running nearly two hours late. Not a problem if you are used to Amtrak, it is par for the course and time at the railway station let us stay in cool air conditioned comfort.

When the train arrived in the station one of the conductors directed us towards the front of the train saying there were disabled seats available there. Boarding the train was pretty difficult because it was pretty full.

For those unfamiliar with trains here in the U.S. most passenger trains are on two levels, the main seating area is upstairs with lower level seating for those who have real difficulty with stairs such as the disabled and elderly. There is extensive labelling of disabled seating asking able bodied people to give up  the seat upon request by a disabled person. In the past I have had assistance from conductors who have told people to vacate a seat for me.

We moved into the lower level of the carriage the first seats were occupied by one young woman with her purse and an overnight bag on the seat opposite. My wife asked if the seat was taken and the woman said no but that we should sit upstairs. She was not obviously disabled, but when my wife said that it is not easy to get a guide dog  upstairs the woman waived her hand and said "whatever."

My wife and I made our way upstairs, the only way to do this is in single file, my wife, Leif then me. At the top the train was crowded, a couple of people gave up their seats for Leif and I but poor Leif was still partway out in the aisle, a tripping hazard for people going back and too from the food service car next door.

I decided then to make my way back down to the lower level to go to the bathroom. The only safe way was to sit on the stairs and shuffle down from step to step as by now the train was moving.

I knew I couldn't get back upstairs again in safety so after visiting the bathroom I made my way to the seat that was still only occupied by the young woman's bags. I asked if she would move them, but she ignored my request. So I sat down on the seat, at which point she began complaining to the others in the carriage that a  blind man was being rude and invading her space.

She scrambled her bags from around me and got on her cell phone. Complaining to someone on the other end of the call that a blind man and his ugly guide dog were acosting her on the train.

I noticed the conductor coming into the compartment and asked him if the young woman was ok. She obviously seemed in distress that I had sat there and was complaining about my dog. She told the conductor that I never asked her I just sat down on her stuff.

She then produced a tale of woe. Which included a story that she had a broken back and was disabled. A nearby passenger then commented on her wearing high heels and how that must be uncomfortable with a broken back.

By now she had her legs drawn up over the arm of the seat and resting her back against the wall of the train. Other passengers also began telling me how she had made several trips to the food car without much need for assistance. Another told me how she had told him that she loved jet-skiing and para-sailing as hobbies, so a much less disabled picture was appearing.

She was by this time, even to my blind eyes, appearing less and less  comfortable. Luckily for her she was getting off the  train  one stop before me and as we approached Fresno, she picked up her things to walk towards the doors. Sadly for her however, our train was pulled into another passing place for half an hour to wait for a passing freight train.

After she disembarked the train. I thanked all the other passengers for their patience with me and giving me some insights to the appearance of this rude, spoiled brat of a woman.

Next time I travel on Amtrak though, I am getting a conductor to take me to my seat. Just to save myself the hassle.