After 8 years, it finally happened. I felt sick about it. My apology was brushed off, I wanted, I wished, that it had been taken seriously as it was seriously intended. But afterwards, maybe an hour, my upset at myself was being tempered by my upset at the need I have for unrequested, but extremely needed, assistance from strangers, even ones I can't see.
You are probably confused.
Let me give you the context to all of this sturm und drang.
I was on the subway heading down to Dundas Station. That's a very busy station and the train is always packed by the time we get there, and, of course, most people on the train get off there. When the doors opened I let a few people in front of me through the door and then headed there myself. I had to turn the wheelchair so it goes straight through the door. There is a huge gap there and I need to go over it with a little bit of speed. I've done this a thousand times.
All those thousands of times that I've done this, I've done this in subway cars that are always packed. So I've come to expect that subway riders can see me, see the movements of my chair, and are willing to give me space, even if only not to be run over. In fact, I've never run over anyone, or even bumped into anyone. People have bumped into me, but that's a different issue. Me. I'm careful. I know I'm heavy. I know my chair is heavy. So I'm really careful.
I was just about finishing lining up the chair (this sounds like I take a long time but I'm quick) and a woman rushed behind me and my back tire turned and caught the side of her shoe. She was startled and cried out, not from pain but from surprise, I shot forward and out of the train. I turned to apologize to her and, even though she was complaining about nearly being run over to a friend with her, she brushed my apology away saying that I hadn't actually hurt her. She walked away, without a limp, clearly still angered by what had happened.
And I felt sick.
I am so careful in my chair.
But, I need people who are around me, particularly around the back of the chair, even more particularly when it's crowded, to work with me as I move the chair. The same way they work with those who have strollers, or prams, or shopping carts, or walkers, or bicycles. I'm not asking for more than others. I just need a kind of active, yet not interactive, help. Like other people do.
I need to use the subway. I need it on cold days. I need it when I'm on a deadline. I need it for the same reasons other people need it. I had to push away the thought 'I won't go on the subway any more, there is too much risk for others.' Then I remember that this is one person in thousands of people who have travelled on the same train to the same station with no incident at all. It's just one person. I didn't actually run over her foot.
But even now, writing about it. I feel terrible.
Both at what happened.
And at knowing exactly, ex-freaking-actly, that I don't figure well into the story she's telling today. And from that story prejudice and animosity towards those of us in power chairs and scooters will be reinforced.