Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rough Day on the East Coast

Last week, I decided it was time that I take advantage of my time on the East Coast, and explore a little bit, especially because I got the whole week off from work. My sister, Molly is living in NYC for the summer so I purchased my ticket online via Washington Deluxe to go visit her. I had a hunch that something was wrong when I did not see any information on the bus website about wheelchair accommodation, so I wrote a note when checking out that I needed wheelchair accessibility. Since the picture online of the bus showed a ramp door on the back of the bus and there was no indication otherwise, I figured and hoped that would be sufficient (booking these things is always so inconsistent). Sadly, when I called them in the morning of the trip to check up with them on accommodations, I learned that wheelchair accessibility was not available not available on that bus and they didn't check the note that I had put in ahead of time. I was less than pleased with the lady over the phone. She was so ornery and continued to blame me for the booking. She told me the only way to get to NYC on their bus was to wait until the next day. I really didn't know what to do at that point, so I just had to cancel. It so hard not to feel frustrated and stressed out a bit.  

 Fortunately, I was able to book a wheelchair accessible bus with another company, Megabus for that day. The ladies I spoke to were so very polite and patient with me. Although, they taxed on some extra fees for booking over the phone. I don't think those with disabilities should have to pay that because we HAVE to book over the phone to make sure bus companies can accommodate us, but there are many things in the life of a person with disabilities that we need to fight for in order to allow change.

 Anyways, I headed towards the Foggy Bottom metro station with my bags. I made it to the platform when this man came by and asked if I had a $20 bill to exchange for his two $10. I said sure, although I thought it was weird that he was asking for that instead of breaking a bill like most people. I handed the bill to him and he held onto it with a grip before letting go of his ten's. Then, he said, "Oh, this is a $1." I replied, "Ooops, I must have grabbed the wrong bill for you. Sorry." What? I was so sure I handed him my only $20. So I went through my purse again and couldn't find it. So I apologized and just took back "my" one and gave him back his ten's. I stared at him, then the money in his hands, and then my purse. I was so confused at what was going on. He repeatedly said, "These are real. These are real." That was an indication that I had been tricked. I wasn't sure what to do in this situation. Naturally, it made me frustrated, but I had to move on. But this really didn't help my rough day. Uggghhhh.

After missing my stop, having to back track, waiting in line for an elevator that clearly had written on it, "Please give priority to persons with disabilities," while able-bodied people got on and off, I finally got to Union Station where the bus was to pick up passengers. It was difficult to find it because it was on a different floor, which explain customer service couldn't explain how to get there but the general location and didn't know where elevators were (because they didn't need to use it, which is good thing they don't use it, but bad because I needed it). I struggled to find it all by myself, but made it. I got to the bus personnel and showed them my reservation, and then I saw the panic expression on their faces. They didn't have wheelchair accessibility. What?!?? I called the company ahead of time! Everything built up and exploded. I couldn't keep the tears from filling my eyes and rolling down my face, uncontrollably. Disappointment and anger entered and a bazillion thoughts and questions went through my head. I was so, so tired of things not working out today. I couldn't understand why everything was happening. I just wanted to disappear. I really wish there was someone there with me.  I missed AJ so much…he's the one that usually makes things possible and would just swoop me up into the bus seat without thinking twice about it, then he would pack away my chair, and we would both be on our way to adventure together...

In the midst of everything, one of the personnel guys asked me if I was OK and tried to make me smile by cracking jokes. He said I was too pretty to cry (just like what my mom used to say). I told him I was having a really tough day. He asked if I had been praying. I said, "Yes, I prayed this morning." "Well," he said, "You've got to keep praying. God is listening to you. He may not answer you today and He may not answer you tomorrow, but He will answer you. You've got to believe that He is there and that He will do what He said He would. When you believe, He will bless you." I believe Him. My heart calmed down.  And then with the help of the personnel, I made it on my bus.

Gosh...what an emotional roller coaster ride. Lately, I've been questioning my beliefs and trying to sort things out in my mind. This experience has been such a challenge for me to do by myself. I felt so alone. I wondered why everything was happening. But that note from the kind man reminded me that God was and is there for me during those moments. I needed to turn to Him. He gives me hope, which gives me a positive, which would lessen the challenge, no matter how difficult it may be.  I realized something back when the accident happened but just forgot in the chaos that I was living a dependent life as much as I wanted to live an independent life, but that dependency was more on God than anyone else, which is the way it should be.  I thank God everyday for my life and I know that the things I'm going through are only for a short time.  I've been wondering a lot about why things happen and what I can do to make those things worth it.  I feel that this whole experience has taught me not only to navigate an ablelist world, but to really stand up for what I and many others with disabilities need--to make them known and help who are not in the same situation understand what we as persons with disabilities go through and help them address those issues because they can't know without us.  I'm not sure if this is my life's mission, but I'm sure that it can lead me down a very interesting road, that can help many lives.  The key is to stay positive, knowing God is by my side.

In the end, I finally made it to see my dear sister, Molly, who made me feel all better inside. I'm so grateful for this best friend/sister of mine. I love her so much!

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