Sunday, July 21, 2013

Smart Ass 10-43

Species Homo sapiens has come up with all kinds of different names for cripples. I thought I heard them all.

But here’s a new one. When I ride Chicago Transit Authority trains, the Homo sapiens who work for CTA refer to me as a 10-43.

“I got a 10-43 at Chicago Avenue!”

A cripple shows up to ride the train. The train pulls up to the station.  The door opens. The station attendant puts down a yellow, fiberglass ramp that bridges the gap between train and platform. The cripple rolls in.   The attendant calls the attendant at the station of the cripple’s destination to alert the attendant that a cripple is approaching so be ready with the ramp.

“I got a 10-43 at Chicago Avenue!”

Some of the attendants really enjoy throwing around that 10-43 stuff. Maybe it makes them feel like a cop or a marine. Once, when the platform was crowded, the attendant walked ahead of me, clearing my path. “Everybody step back,” he said “There’s a 10-43 coming through!”

I bet I know how 10-43 came about. I bet CTA formed a committee with the mission of making recommendations on what to call crippled passengers. Cripples are really touchy about that stuff. It’s easy to piss us off. We can’t even agree on what to call each other.

Because all the commonly-used words for cripple are so tainted. You can't just say, “I got a cripple at Chicago Avenue!” That will piss some cripples off.

And you can’t say, “I got a handicapable individual at Chicago Avenue!” That will piss cripples like me off.

And you sure as hell can’t say, “I got an invalid at Chicago Avenue!” That will piss every cripple off.

No matter what you say, some cripple is gonna get pissed off. So about the only way to come up with a word that’s taint free is to coin a new one. Thus, 10-43. It’s simple. It’s to the point. It’s neutral-ish. There's no taint.

This could be a breakthrough. Because there’s a dire need in the marketplace for a universally acceptable name for cripples. There are a lot of thoughtlessly named products out there. Like once when I was in a hospital examining room, they needed to transfer me from my wheelchair to the exam table. So they rolled in this lifting device that looked like an assless hammock. And the device was called the Maxi Move

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Maxi Move? That sounds like some kind of crane constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers for the purpose of moving a beached whale! But what if they called the Maxi Move something like the 10-43 Toter? Doesn’t that sound much more civilized?

And the brand name of the wheelchair I’m sitting in is Invacare. There’s that word "invalid" again, which Miriam-Webster defines as not valid. But when used as a noun, it means crippled. Same difference. The Invacare brand is to cripples what the Washington Redskins brand is to Native Americans.  I’m surprised Invacare’s logo isn’t a cripple in traction wrapped in bandages like a mummy.

Invacare could call their wheelchairs 10-43 Mobiles instead. Nobody would balk, except maybe some eternal malcontents who might say, “I am NOT a number. I’m a human being!” For them I offer the Bronx cheer.

The more I think about this 10-43 jazz, the more I like it. It has a certain unstigmatized ring to it. Someday I might call myself a smart ass 10-43.