Thursday, February 13, 2020

I'd Rather be Robbed

Larry told me he was riding the subway train and he got robbed again.

The first time Larry was robbed was about a year ago. When the train pulled up to a station and the doors opened, a youth who as riding in the same train car with Larry snatched away the cell phone mounted on Larry’s motorized wheelchair. His youth accomplice grabbed the wheelchair joystick and tried to drive Larry out of the door and off the train. Apparently that youth discovered that driving a motorized wheelchair is much harder than it looks because Larry says they quickly gave up on that part of the scheme and ran off the train with his phone.

The most recent robbery happened just last week. Larry got off the train and got on the elevator to go up to the street. Somebody got on the elevator with him. This guy wasn’t a youth. The guy opened the pouch hanging on Larry’s wheelchair and snatched his cash. When the elevator door opened the guy dashed out.

This wouldn’t have happened to Larry 30 years ago because 30 years ago guys like him and me couldn’t get on public transit buses and trains with our wheelchairs. The buses all had steps inside the entrance doors and hardly any subway stations had elevators. Back then, if we wanted to go anywhere, our only option was to call paratransit and a cripple van with a wheelchair lift would pick us up. But to try to book a paratransit ride, we had to call at 5 a.m. the day before. A thousand other cripples were trying to do the same thing at the same time so breaking through the busy signal wall was the first challenge. And if you did break through, all the ride slot might well be taken up so you were SOL. And if you were lucky enough to actually score an open ride slot, it might be two hours before or after you actually needed it because that was the only time slot available. And the cripple bus might well pick you up or drop you off two hours late. And there was nothing you could do about it.

Yep, back then, guys like Larry and me were so oppressed and marginalized, the prospect of being robbed on a subway train was a luxury, Back then, a lot of cripples bitched, protested and sued to get public transit access. But other cripples said they’d never ride the mainline buses and trains. It’s too dangerous, they said. People get robbed.

Well then the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed requiring public transit access. And 30 years later, here we are. But there still are cripples who say they'll never ride mainline buses and trains. It’s too dangerous. People get robbed. When they hear about Larry being robbed, they’ll probably say, “See, I told you so!”

I suppose someday I’ll get robbed like Larry did. I also have a cell phone and money pouch attached to my chair. And I’m sure I’ll be traumatized as a result, especially if some dickhead tries to drive my chair off of the train.

But I remember the frustration of being at the mercy of paratransit. Even if I just wanted to go a few miles down the street, I had to participate in a degrading lottery for crumbs. I remember how that made me fume, especially when I looked out of my window at the bus stop right across the street. I remember when I finally took my first mainline bus ride, like a regular fucking human being. I felt like I had wings.

So I can’t even begin to imagine being so traumatized that I would return to only riding paratransit. I’d rather be robbed.



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Thursday, February 6, 2020

What Does Equality for Crippled Assholes Look Like?



Okay so here’s an ethical dilemma for us all to chew on. Suppose there’s some superstar basketball player like LeBron James. And suppose, seated courtside in the prime seats, is a vicious heckler. And I mean this is the most foul-mouthed, offensive, sonuvabitch of a heckler anybody ever heard. Every time LeBron passes by, he spews venom. He talks about his mama.

So here’s my question: At what point would LeBron be justified going into the stands and throttling that person? But hold on before you answer. Suppose that heckler is a Down Syndrome person or maybe somebody who’s blind. Does that change your answer? Should it?

I know it’s hard to picture a Down Syndrome person or somebody who’s blind as a vicious courtside heckler. It’s like trying to picture someone who blind or a Down Syndrome person on a wanted poster. You just don’t ever see that kind of thing. But why not? It reminds me of that TV show that I never watch where the protagonist is a woman who is chief of police in Los Angeles. It makes me wonder why I can’t think of a real-life female chief of police. It’s not like women are inherently incapable of being chiefs of police. They just haven’t had the opportunity. They’ve been pressured to play a limited role. It’s the same way with blind people and especially Down Syndrome people. The only way Down Syndrome people are allowed to present themselves in public is as sweet and cute and lovable. They aren’t inherently incapable of being a vicious heckler or ending up on a wanted poster. They just haven’t had the opportunity. They’ve been pressured to play a limited role.

So imagine we live in a utopian society that so teeming with genuine equal opportunity that a blind person or a Down Syndrome person could end up on a wanted poster or heckling courtside as easily as anyone else. That brings us back to our ethical question: At what point would LeBron be justified going into the stands and throttling that person? Should he hold back just because the foul-mouthed asshole is crippled? Should he cut a crippled asshole any additional slack? If LeBron went into the stands and throttled a blind or Down Syndrome-having sonuvabitch, he’d probably be fined and suspended ten times harder than if he throttled a regular Joe. Is that fair? Isn’t throttling us without prejudice when we deserve it the proper way for him to show respect and solidarity for cripple equality? Or not?

Discuss.


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Friday, January 24, 2020

Shame and the Social Contract



This is the time of year when cripples are busily organizing all the cripple pride parades that will happen this summer in cities all over. Cripples put together floats and stuff like that and roll through the streets strutting their stuff. As parades go, they tend to be low-budget affairs. There aren’t any giant hot-air balloons shaped like Stephen Hawking or anything like that.

These parades are a good thing, though it’s too bad they're necessary. We wouldn’t have to publicly proclaim how proud we are to be who we are, if everybody didn’t think otherwise. It reminds me of that TV commercial where everybody talks about how wonderful it is to work for Amazon. Amazon wouldn’t waste their time and money making a commercial about how wonderful it is to work for them, if everybody didn’t think working for Amazon sucks.

I take part in the Chicago cripple pride parade every year. But I have to say that I’m always left feeling unfulfilled. There’s something missing. Our message of pride just doesn’t seem like it's having its full impact.

But I’ve figured out what it is that’s missing. There are no hecklers. Nobody feels threatened enough by what we’re saying to come out and try to shout us down. And that’s troubling.

Don’t they know how dangerous we are? I mean, when it comes to cripples, shame is an indispenable clause in the social contract. Society gives us a little space to move around and in exchange we have to act like it’s all sad wretches like us deserve. If it’s charity, we have to be ecstatically grateful for whatever is given us, even if it’s a dead pony. If it’s something like Medicaid, we have to stay forever broke and inert. Because if we’re not forever broke and inert we aren’t really crippled.

So you’d think that when cripples have the nerve to be proud of themselves and each other (in public no less), it would scare the hell out of at least some uncrippled people. If cripples can’t be shamed into submission anymore, it’s like giving them all that stuff for free. Then what? They’ll demand more and more and pretty soon they’ll take over!

I’ll keep joining the parade every year but pretty soon I hope I’ll see agitated uncrippled onlookers holding up signs saying CRIPPLES GO HOME. And maybe I’ll even get winged by a flying rotten tomato or two.

Won’t that be glorious? That’s when I’ll know we’ve really arrived.


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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Demographic Immunity


I am immune from car sale commercials. No matter how much of a super spectacular blow-out of a sale the ecstatic spokesactor or local dealership owner proclaims it to be, it all just bounces right off of me. Because the only kind of car I’m ever going to buy is a cripple accessible minivan. And you never see or hear commercials for a super spectacular blow-out sale on cripple accessible minivans.

You would think this would be something I’d mourn. But it’s not. Car sale commercials actually make me feel the opposite. They make me feel grateful to be who and what I am. It’s a relief to know that spokesactor or local dealership owner isn’t talking to me. One of the great struggles in life is to tune out the torrent of sales pitches we encounter each day and keep focused on what’s real. I can tune this one out without expending any energy. It’s a blessing.

Car sale commercials also make me feel grateful that I am the type of cripple that will never ever be able to walk or be any less crippled than I already am. Otherwise this sales pitch might shame me into spending hours and hours walking on a treadmill in a physical therapy gym in the hope of becoming uncrippled enough to someday take advantage of the super spectacular blow-out car sale. In a capitalist society where your worth is measured by how many people are trying to sell you something, the temptation would be great.

My crippledness gives me an armor their arrows cannot penetrate. I call it demographic immunity. Sometimes being so far outside the mainstream demographic that no one notices your existence ain’t such a bad thing.

I wonder if cripples who have no legs feel the same way about commercials for shoe sales. And what about cripples who eat through stomach tubes? Do they feel blissfully immune from food commercials? I sure hope so.



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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Terrifying Wholesomeness



Rahnee and I were eating dinner in a restaurant, just minding our business and having a grand old time, when I saw something that scared the living hell out of me. It triggered severe PTSD flashbacks.

A guy sat at a nearby table and he wore a red preppy sweater over a white shirt. I gasped and muttered, “Oh Dear God! It’s Up With People!”

Rahnee’s face twisted up, inquisitively. She had no idea what that out-of-the-blue comment was all about. It hit me that she’s much younger than me and since Up With People was a phenomenon mostly of the 1960s and 70s, she might not have been subjected to them. So now I had to explain to her what Up With People was and what made them so terrifying.

I told her that when I was a teenage inmate at the state operated boarding school for crippled kids, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT), they took us on a field trip to a theater. The performers were the Up With People troupe. And they were just as I’d seen them on TV, performing at football game halftimes and on hokey variety shows. As I remember, the guys wore red or blue preppy sweaters over white shirts and the females wore matching red or blue jumpers with white blouses. The performers were all as white and pure as could be. They all had permanent, lobotomized smiles and they sang relentlessly upbeat songs about how we all need to be nice to each other while they performed stiff, synchronized choreography.

It scared the hell out of me in the same way the guy on the Quaker Oats box scared the hell out of me when I was a child. I wasn’t scared of the Quaker Oats guy in the sense that I thought he would break into my room and stab me to death or anything like that. When I look back, I realize what terrified me was his overpowering wholesomeness. I’ve always reacted that way to people who are unabashedly wholesome. I get paranoid that they’re coming after us all. Their agenda is to release a tidal wave of wholesomeness that will drown us all and when it recedes we’ll all be as wholesome are they are.

That’s how Up With People affected me as a teen. I just wanted to get the hell out of that theater before their ingenious form of torture broke me down to the point where I’d surrender and become one of them.

Seeing the guy in the red preppy sweater made this all come rushing back. I explained all this to Rahnee and her face shifted into a new look that said, “What kind of drugs have you taken?” It was a look of pity.

When we got home, I sent her an internet video of Up With People performing in the 1960s and 70s. So at least she knows I didn’t make it all up, though she probably still wonders what kind of drugs I’ve taken.


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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Metaphor to Illustrate How “I’m Socially Liberal But Fiscally Conservative" Is a Fucked Up Way to Be


I don’t have any kids as far as I know. But if I did, I’m confident that I would have instilled in them an ethical framework that says one should never stick the head of a fellow human into a toilet and give them a swirly, no matter how deserving that person may seem. However, I’d be very tempted to tell them it’s all right to make an exception for anyone who says, “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative.”

Please allow me to put forth a taxi cab as a metaphor to illustrate how fucked up that “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative” attitude is. Suppose I want to go somewhere in a cab. The socially liberal region of these people’s brains would wholeheartedly agree that I should have as much right to do that as my neighbors who are verts (which is what I call people who walk because it’s short for vertical). They would firmly subscribe to the premise that no cab driver should deny me service just because I use a wheelchair. That would be discrimination, which is abhorrent in all its forms!

But obviously, even if a cabbie opened the passenger door and welcomed me in with a red carpet, it wouldn’t be any good because in order to get around, I need a vehicle that’s wheelchair accessible. So if there aren’t any cabs like those on the street, I ain’t going nowhere! But those cost a lot more than a regular sedan. Giving me equal opportunity doesn’t always mean treating me like I’m a vert because I’m not a vert. Sometimes you have to do things differently and that often costs money.

So the fiscally conservative region of their brain would balk. Equality is all well and good, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. And I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that how it works with these people is that whenever the fiscally conservative region of their brain conflicts with the socially liberal region, the fiscally conservative region always wins out. When someone says, “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative,” it’s like they’re giving you a warning.

After churning all this about, their conflicted brains would probably declare that as long as I’m given the same opportunity to ride the same cabs the vets ride, I’m being treated as equally as I can reasonably expect to be treated. So what if I still ain’t going nowhere.

I suppose giving a swirly to everyone who says, “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative” would be considered assault. But it can also be considered self-defense. Because imagine how much carnage can occur if that attitude catches on too much. We can’t just stand idly by and let that happen. Somebody has to do something! Maybe giving those people swirlies will somehow knock some sense into them. One can only hope.



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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Rosie


Some turtles live 100 years or more. There was a giant Galapagos land tortoise that lived to be 175. What the hell is that all about?

Hey, I’ve got nothing turtles. I’ve never been emotionally attached to one but they seem pretty cool to me. I like how they are mostly defensive creatures. If they see danger coming they duck inside their shells and stay there until the coast is clear. That’s probably one of the reasons why they live so long. They don’t go around looking for trouble.

In no way do I begrudge any turtles their longevity. More power to them. But why not dogs, too? How come dogs only get to live about 15 years or so? That’s so unfair it’s sadistic. Whomever made up that stupid ass rule really fucked up big time.

Imagine if dogs lived 100 years like turtles. You could be 80 years old and the puppy you got as a kid could still be by your side. How cool would that be? Imagine how much less heartache there would be in the world if we didn’t have to say goodbye to our pet dogs. Then there really would be such a thing as unconditional love. If you could have your dog around for your whole life, imagine how much more calm and mellow and at peace everybody would feel. There probably wouldn’t be any fucking wars!

So whatever divine power decided to only give dogs 15 years sure blew a golden fucking opportunity. I don’t understand what the hell he/she/it was thinking.

That’s all I have to say this week. Thanks.

Rosie had a curly mascara line around her eyes. She was the color of pancakes.


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