Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cinderella Rides Pseudotransit

So suppose Cinderella was crippled. She was crippled and she lived in Chicago in the 1980s, before the Americans with Disabilities Act. She would have been one pissed off princess.

Here’s the scenario: Cinderella gets an invitation to the ball. She’s beside herself with joy. But how will she get to the ball? Well, she could take the bus. The opulent palace where they’re having the ball is right off the number 151 city bus line. It’s a snap!

Oh but wait a minute. This is Chicago in the 1980s and Cinderella is crippled. None of the city buses have wheelchair lifts. All she can do is call paratransit. That’s the only public transit accessible to cripples. (I don’t know why they called it paratransit. It should have been called pseudotransit.)

Pseudotransit will send a cripple bus to pick Cinderella up at her door and deliver her right at the door of the palace. Sounds like a limo, eh? Except that Cinderella will have to call at 5 a.m. the day before the ball to bid for a ride. And she’ll drown in a tidal wave of busy signals because thousands of other cripples are calling at the same time, too. So poor Cinderella may not be able to go to the ball at all, because by the time she gets through, all the allotted pseudotransit rides might be taken.

This all assumes that Cinderella had the foresight to sign up for pseudotransit in the first place. She couldn’t just call out of the blue. First she’d need to have a doctor’s note on file certifying her as a cripple, and maybe even a prescription. Cripples are constantly bothering their doctors for prescriptions. Once I needed a part for my wheelchair which was pretty much just a piece of rubber with a slot in it. I had to get a prescription for a piece of rubber with a slot in it.

So let’s say Cinderella actually gets a pseudotransit ride to the ball. And since this is a fairy tale, let’s even assume the ride shows up on time. Who knows if Cinderella arrives at the ball on time? Because the pseudotransit bus may well first take her to the other side of town to pick up three more cripples and drop them all off before taking her to the ball.

And then there’s that whole midnight curfew issue. Would Cinderella’s prearranged return pseudotransit ride arrive on time for her to make a discreet exit and save herself all that pumpkin embarrassment? There was one thing those of us who were Chicago pseudotransit captives could always count on. If the party was rockin’ and you didn’t want to leave, pseudotransit always showed up on time to take you home. But if the party sucked and you couldn’t wait to leave, pseudotransit would be five hours late.

We all know the ball was a blast so Cinderella may have escaped on time. But considering how much was at stake with punctuality in this case, the pseudotransit Gods, with their sadistic sense of humor, probably would send the pseudotransit bus to the wrong address. And by the time it showed up to fetch Cinderella, she’d be just a pumpkin in a wheelchair. Or is it the pseudotransit bus that turns into a pumpkin? I don’t remember how the story goes. It’s been a long time since I was a six-year-old girl.

Screwed out of her one and only chance to hook up with a flawless man who would dedicate his life to taking care of her so she would never have to think for herself, Cinderella would have been steamed. She would have joined up with all us other steamed cripples at the time who took to the streets demanding full access to public transportation.

Today, crippled Cinderella could get to the ball on the regular city bus. No prescription necessary. And if you think a woman in a wheelchair dressed in a zillion-dollar ball gown would stand out as the biggest weirdo on a big city bus, you’ve obviously never ridden a big city bus.