Sunday, October 25, 2015

After the Revolution

I was watching a movie that was set in New York in the 1940s. And you know how sometimes you’re watching a movie and you spot a blatant historical inaccuracy that ruins the whole illusion? Well in this movie the protagonist crossed the street and the curbs on both sides of the intersection were nicely ramped to accommodate wheelchair cripples. “Oops,” I said to myself. “Somebody didn’t do their research. Don’t they know that in the 1940s there was no such thing? In the name of authenticity, somebody should have made concrete-colored ramp fillers out of Styrofoam and stuffed them in those gaps to eliminate those ramps and more accurately reflect the inhospitable nature of the times.”

And then I had one of those moments where I think about some of the shit previous generations of cripples put up with and I shake my head in disbelief. I said to myself," I can’t believe there was a time when there was nothing but big-ass curbs everywhere. That would make me erupt. Life must’ve really sucked back then.”

And then I had one of those moments that I always have after I have one of those moments where I think about some of the shit previous generations of cripples put up with. And I told myself not to be so damn superior. Every generation of cripples puts up with shit we ought not to put up with, including mine. When I fly on the airlines they haul my ass to my seat and take away my wheelchair and throw it in the baggage hole, which means I’m screwed in the event of an emergency. I’m also screwed if I have to go to the bathroom, although I’d still be screwed in that regard even if I had my chair because those airliner bathrooms are so tiny you can’t sit on the crapper without your knees pressing up against the back of the door. So you sure as hell can’t fit a wheelchair in there. I feel like erupting in outrage about all this but I don’t. Erupting probably wouldn't yield any immediate results anyway. If I demanded an accommodation from the airlines in the event that I have to pee in flight, they’d probably issue me a clothespin to clamp onto the end of my pecker. So instead of erupting, I quietly dehydrate myself. This greatly reduces the odds of my needing the bathroom during the flight or of peeing my pants in the event of an emergency.

And then I had one of those moments that I always have after I have one of those moments where I remind myself about the kind of shit my generation of cripples puts up with. And I wondered what future generations of cripples will say to themselves when they look back on us hapless cripples of today and shake their heads in disbelief. Here’s what I hope they’ll say: ”I can’t believe there was a time when every cripple didn’t have their own free, custom-made, accessible private jet. That was before the revolution, when cripples seized control of the government and immediately passed the Free Custom-made Accessible Private Jet for All Americans with Disabilities Act (FCAPJADA). Life must’ve really sucked back then.”

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Zombies of Color

I saw an ad that really made me curious. It said, Wanted: Zombies of Color.

So I called to find out what it was all about. And the recorded message said, “Thank you for calling Zombie Finders. If you want to sign up for the zombies of color audition, press 9.” So I pressed 9 and the recorded message told me to show up Thursday at noon.

And then I did some research and I learned that Zombie Finders is a talent agency that specializes in casting ordinary folks in the roles of zombies in movies and TV shows. There’s a huge demand because the zombie apocalypse has become a hot artistic topic in recent years and nobody ever casts just one zombie. Zombies are always cast by the shitload. That’s where Zombie Finders comes in.

More research revealed that last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged Zombie Finders with employment discrimination. An investigation by the agency found that nearly all those who passed Zombie Finder auditions were white, which is why the shitloads of Zombies we see in movies and TV shows do not, in the agency’s words, “reflect the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of America.”

I never thought about that but it’s true. I know whenever I think about zombies I picture white males. That’s how we’ve been conditioned by our mass media

So the zombies of color audition was part of Zombie Finders settlement agreement with EEOC. I was super excited to try out because if zombie diversity was what they were after, I could deliver that big time. In no zombie movie or TV show have I ever seen a zombie in a motorized wheelchair or even a dwarf zombie for that matter. Zombies are pretty goddam homogeneous. And whereas I am not technically “of color,” I feel like being crippled in some ways makes me an honorary member of that club. And I was also super excited to try out because being cast as a zombie would be the realization of a lifelong vocational ambition. As a kid I pictured myself as everything from a boxer to an astronaut. But never in my wildest dreams did I dare imagine that some sweet day I would be paid to act like a zombie.

So I showed up Thursday at noon and got in line. I had a soliloquy from Hamlet all memorized and ready to go. But then a large man with curly red hair and a clipboard asked me to come with him. He escorted me off to a corner. “I’m sorry sir but the audition is only for zombies of color,” he said.

I explained to him that any truly inclusive shitload of zombies would contain at least a smattering of cripples. “And besides,” I said, “a zombie in motorized wheelchair would wow the pants off of the EEOC!”

“A zombie in motorized wheelchair?” scoffed the fair-skinned linebacker of a man. “Impossible. First of all, what happens when your batteries run out of juice? Do you expect people to believe that a zombie has the wherewithal to periodically stop and recharge its wheelchair batteries?”

“Well I don’t know!” I protested. “May I’m freshly zombified and I’m still running on the juice I had before I was undead!”

But the man wasn’t buying it. I continued pleading my case until he threatened to call security.

So I left. But I’m still pissed. I have half a mind to gather up some crippled brothers and picket Zombie Finders. But I don’t think it would do much good. The zombies probably won’t honor my picket line because they don’t have much job security. They can be easily replaced by scab zombies.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cripples on the Titanic

I don’t know for sure, but I bet there weren’t any cripples like me on the Titanic. But if there were any, I wonder what happened to them?

Rescue etiquette in a civilized society dictates that women and children be saved first. The whole basis for this is to save those who are allegedly the weakest and most vulnerable. So it follows that cripples would be included in that grouping, being that we are a popular symbol of the ultimate in weakness and vulnerability. Cripples might even be at the top of the rescue list.

But my guess is that even if that’s how things were on paper, any cripples like me on the Titanic probably went down with the ship involuntarily. Or at least I’m sure that’s how it would be if the Titanic went down today. Because the humane plan for orderly exit that moves the weakest and most vulnerable to the front leaves rich white guys at the end of the line. And I can’t imagine rich white guys of today sitting back and letting that happen.

Altruistic notions really get put to the test when the holders of such notions suddenly find their own asses on the line. So if cripples were at the top of the rescue list and the ship hit an iceberg, the rich white guys on board would face two courses of action. A: They could pretend to be crippled. Suddenly they all start limping or bumping into walls like they’re blind. Or they mug cripples like me, throw us out of our wheelchairs and hijack them. Some, no doubt, would elect to go that route. Or, B: They could resort to the power of rationalization. In other words, sway public opinion by cranking the old propaganda machine up to full blast. The libertarians would lead the way, standing on the soapbox and arguing that whereas saving the weakest and most vulnerable is a commendable idea, it is too simplistic of a worldview. It ignores the most immutable fact of human nature, which is that those who have acquired the most have necessarily worked the hardest. These are the humans to which we are all most beholden. But if we force rich white men to the back of the rescue line we are punishing success and that’s un-American! What’s next, sharia law? Our rescue priority must be job creators first!

Where I live, the doorperson in the lobby has a list of the seven or eight cripples living my building so if a big fire breaks out the firefighters know where to go to rescue us. I just hope the firefighter assigned to rescue me isn’t a libertarian.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Befuddled by Cripples

At a lot of airports now they have those trains that go from terminal to terminal and the train doesn’t even have a driver. There are no humans in charge anywhere. Those trains really stress the hell out of me. I feel like I’m hurdling toward hell.

Because last time I rode one of those trains was in Denver and it was packed full like a cattle car. The cheery, disembodied, female computer voice said, “Arriving at terminal C.” When the doors opened, I waited for the pack of walking humans on board to leave before attempting my exit. But the doors closed in the middle of my egress and clamped down on my wheelchair like a giant, vertical, steel alligator jaw. And the doors wouldn’t let go. And then the cheery, disembodied, female computer voice bitched me out: “Please stop blocking the door! You’re holding up this train!” And then I swear she said, “You damn cripples are such a pain in the ass! Why do they even let you people out in public?” That’s probably not what she said, but that’s what it felt like.

The jaws stopped trying to devour me just long enough for me to shoot out onto the platform. The train sped away. But that’s what happens when there are no humans in charge. A human train engineer would have seen a cripple trapped in the door and would have thought on his/her feet and flipped the emergency door opener switch or something. But computers don’t improvise. And when they encounter a situation they aren't programmed to deal with, such as a cripple trapped in the door, they either panic or shut down. I don’t blame them. I react the same way in those circumstances. But it still stresses me out.

But I guess I’d better get used to it. The potential for computers and robots to put working-class humans on the permanent unemployment line is limitless and we can’t stand in the way of progress. And no matter how well computers and robots are programmed to deal with every potential customer service scenario, it’s inevitable that sooner or later they will be befuddled by a cripple. Because that’s how cripples are. Just when humans think we’ve got every possible scenario figured out, along come the cripples.

And it won’t be just train engineers out of work. I go to my neighborhood CVS drug store at least once a week. So far all the employees there are human. And after one of them rings me up, he/she comes around and gets my cash out of a pouch attached to the side of my wheelchair. I can’t do it myself. The humans know the routine but what happens if I go to CVS next week and all the employees are robots wearing blue polo shirts and CVS nametags with names on them like Org or Blip? When I ask a robot to come around and get my money out of my pouch, I’m sure it won’t be programmed for that so it’ll just stand there with a befuddled robot look on its stupid robot face. And it won’t do me any good to demand to speak to a supervisor because it'll also be a robot so it won’t have a clue either. So I’ll probably say screw it and just take my stuff and try to leave without paying. But then the robot security rent-a-cop will grab me and arrest me. Nothing good can come of this driverless train stuff.

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