Monday, September 14, 2009

BIG City: A guest blog by Tessa Armstrong

I am a city woman! Been in cities my whole life... First New York City and finally, after a few other urban homes like Vancouver and Madrid, I settled in Toronto many years ago. All these cities have transit systems. Just normal stuff... you run for the bus, you rush down the subway steps, and you leap into the train as the doors are closing sometimes.

Ok (looking over at my scooter), I don’t do that anymore, not for the last two years. I go every place I can get to on my scooter. And if I can’t get there on scooter, well, it probably doesn’t exist anymore, right? Well, it was right, and just fine with me, at least until yesterday.

My friends, Dave and Joe, invited me to go to the movies with them. It was way down town and they were going to (gasp!) take the subway! I honestly considered not going, it was such a scary thought to me. Those trains are big, there is a space between the train and the platform, and there are lots of people! What if someone pushes me? What if I get caught in the doors? What if…..

On the way to the subway, our little group chatted and laughed. Joe and Dave are such lively, warm people. I forgot about the trip ahead until I saw the first elevator. For heaven’s sake, you would think I was born on a farm and had never seen an elevator. I actually froze for a second.

Dave went ahead into the elevator in his power chair and then Joe and I went down. We continued on through a somewhat confusing journey of hallways and elevators. But each time, Dave would go first and Joe would chat with me and tell me what level we were going to, and open the door to get in and then out.

On the platform, Dave moved a little away so he could get in a different door and we wouldn’t be rushed or crowded. Joe stayed and chatted with me till the train came. I held my breath and on we got! Dave had given me the strategy beforehand to be ready to exit at your station from either side.

Joe stayed and chatted with me for the two stops till we got off. And I got off! I didn’t get stuck; I didn’t hit a wall… nuthin!

We made it to the theatre through some more hallways and elevators. We waited in line, apparently invisible at one point as some people stepped around us and got in line in front of us – but we got tickets and snacks and we got into place for the movie. And I took a deep breath and felt my eyes fill up.

I had given up a big piece of my City life without a fight. I had ‘accepted’ that I couldn’t go places and didn’t even try. I was really mad at myself about that. Why do we do that sometimes? People who normally are determined and strong, just give up? Is it like a quota of aggravation is reached?

I already know the answer, I think. That whole trip had been a series of small kindnesses, little gifts of attention and care and thoughtfulness from both Joe and Dave. You know, I simply would have chickened out and gone back home in other circumstances. Maybe I should let myself off the hook for whimping out sometimes, and be as encouraging and kind to myself as my friends were to me.

So thank you Dave and Joe. I was touched by your generosity of spirit and maybe I can cut myself some slack. And as a bonus, like you said Dave, my city just got much, much BIGGER!

Tessa Armstrong

32 comments:

wendy said...

What a great story!

Belinda said...

Congratulations on breaking through a barrier, "with a little help from your friends," (in keeping with the Beatles' come-back.) And woo-hoo, you have taken back your city!

Belinda said...

Um, I meant "Beatles music revival," not "comeback," silly me! :)

FridaWrites said...

Tessa, I am a scooter user too. For me, it's scary to think I could get stuck somewhere without help, but going with other people somewhere new for the first time (or with a different mode of transportation) changes everything. I used to take public transport by myself when I traveled, but now I'd very be hesitant to do so.

Kristin said...

Congrats on such a breakout in your thinking. I'm glad you had people like Dave and Joe to help you.

Anonymous said...

Yeaaaaaa!! Watch out Toronto, here Tessa comes!!!

:o)

liz said...

Now I'm all sobby.

Brenda said...

Tessa, I totally get where you're coming from. I, too, was a city gal who would hop on a bus or subway without a thought. It was like walking into the kitchen...you don't think about placing your feet one in front of the other, you just 'go'. But now, with a power chair much like Dave's, I've found myself limited to Wheeltrans and Hubbytrans. Then...one day after visiting the zoo, we were ready to go home two hours before Wheeltrans was due to arrive. We're only about a 10 minute drive from the zoo, so my kids said, "C'mon Mom, let's just take the bus." My insides turned into a solid block of ice. I couldn't! The 'what if's' piled on top of me, pressing me down into my chair. But, I've tried very hard to teach them to be brave, to let nothing stand in their way, so my words had come back to bite me in the ass. Such is motherhood. With a terrified smile on my face, I mounted a TTC bus for the very first time since getting my chair. And I lived! We were home so incredibly fast, and in one piece, I began to wonder why I ever took Wheeltrans at all. Thank God for good friends and family that are there to drag us, sometimes kicking and screaming, into new experiences. Thanks for guesting today!

Katheen said...

Tessa, I'm so glad your city just got bigger and that you have such wonderful friends!! Joe and dave sound like very sweet guys!K

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