I like to think that because I rode a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus one day a few years back, I probably saved the world. Or at least I should be credited with an assist. The guy who probably saved the world that day couldn’t have done it without my help.
Because when I ride the bus it takes me a minute or so longer to board than it takes the average biped. The bus driver flips a switch that deploys a ramp. I roll aboard. I maneuver into one of the wheelchair slots. While I was doing all this, this guy came running from around the corner. He waved his arms frantically like people do when they’re running to catch the bus. And judging by the look of urgency on his face, he was a very important first responder on his way to thwart an imminent terrorist attack and if he didn’t catch this very bus it would mean certain annihilation for us all! Now of course it’s true that everybody running to catch a city bus has that same look on their face. But maybe this time it was actually the case.
The guy caught the bus. And a few blocks later he got off. And there was no terrorist attack that day.
But he never would’ve caught the bus if it hadn’t been for me. If this had been the dark days of about 30 short years ago, when there were no CTA buses accessible for wheelchair cripples, that bus would have been long gone. And the terrorists would’ve won! Because there wouldn’t have been anyone like me in the mix to clog up the works long enough for the important first responder to catch that bus. Back in the dark days, while everyone else rode the CTA, the acronym for the public transit system for wheelchair cripples in Chicago was SOL. And there were some politicians and media people who thought that making mainline buses accessible for wheelchair cripples to ride them was a really stupid idea. They issued dire warnings in the newspapers about how wheelchair cripples will clog up the works if we let them ride the CTA. Wheelchair cripples will wreak havoc on the precisely-timed bus schedules with our poky asses, they said. This will lead to rioting in the streets followed by widespread looting and arson, the collapse of the western economy and decades of famine. At the time, my only rebuttal to those harboring this selfish attitude was as follows: Fuck off. But now, after many years of riding CTA buses, I have formulated an additional rebuttal for the selfish: For every passenger who gets to their destination later than they would have if a wheelchair cripple hadn't clogged up the works, there’s another passenger who gets to their destination a lot sooner than they would have if a wheelchair cripple hadn’t clogged up the works. So fuck off.
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