Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back in the Days When Going to Purchase Tokens to Pay for Your Dial-a-Ride Could Make You Late for Your Dial-a-Ride

This was back in the days of payphones, bus tokens and dial-a-ride. Man, did those days suck for cripples in Chicago who wanted to get around on public transit. The buses and trains weren’t accessible so the only option was dial-a-ride. Call and make your reservation at 5 a.m. the previous morning, 30 hours in advance. And when the cripple bus arrives, don’t be late! The cripple bus only waits five minutes then it leaves. And then you’re SOL. Better learn how to hitchhike. And worse yet, they marked you down as a No Show! There was great shame associated with being a No Show. When you were a No Show, brace yourself because the next time you called dial-a-ride to dial up a ride you first got the dreaded No Show lecture: “Mr/Miss (Fill in the Blank), last time you were a No Show! It’s very inconsiderate to be a No Show. You keep the driver waiting, you keep the passengers waiting…” Being a No Show earned you several thousand years in Purgatory!

So on this particular day I had my dial-a-ride pickup all scheduled and ready. But just before the cripple bus was due to arrive, I realized I was all out of bus tokens to pay for the ride I dialed up. So I hustled over to the currency exchange around the corner. I purchased a roll of tokens from the women in the room behind the service window. I was the only customer and I couldn’t open the heavy front door to leave. (This was back in the days before there were a lot of automatic doors, too.) The woman came out from the room behind the service window to open the front door for me. When she heard the door to the room behind the service window lock behind her with an ominous click, the woman stopped in her tracks, ran back to the door and shook the knob furiously! Locked! The woman ran to the front door of the currency exchange. It was locked, too! “Oh no!” the woman cried.

Apparently she forgot to push a button or something before she came out from the room behind the service window. And if you didn’t push that button, when the room behind the service window was left unattended, all doors automatically locked. It was some sort of security thing. And the only person with the magic key to unlock the door was the boss. But she couldn’t call him because the phone was in the locked room behind the service window.

What now? We were trapped! The cripple bus was due at my house in two minutes! I was going to be a No Show! But wait! A customer! He tried to open the front door! Locked! The woman ran up to the door and waved her arms. “The doors are locked! We’re trapped!”

The man looked perplexed? “What?” he mouthed. The woman held up one finger! Wait! Don’t go away! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease don’t go away! The woman patted herself down in a futile search for pen and paper. I happened to have both those items on me so she dashed off a note: Call the boss at 555-5555 and tell him to come unlock the door. She slid the note under the door. The man read the note and then held out his upturned, empty palms as if to say he had no money for a payphone. Of course he was broke. He was probably coming to the currency exchange to cash a check so he wouldn’t be broke.

The woman patted herself down again in a futile search for change. I happened to have change. The woman slid my change under the door. The man scooped up the change and left. He returned a few minutes later and gave us a big thumbs up. After a little while the boss came and unlocked the door. I shot out of the currency exchange and scurried home. It was way past the ETA for the cripple bus. And when I arrived home, there was nary a cripple bus in sight! Dammit! I was SOL! And worse yet, I was a No Show! I would have to go sit in the No Show corner with all the other No Shows and wear my No Show dunce cap.

But I was feeling ornery. I told myself when they try to give me my No Show lecture, I’ll lecture them right back! I’ll say, “Cripples have lives, too, you know! And in life, shit happens that makes you late for dial-a-ride. Sometimes you go to the currency exchange to get tokens to pay for your dial-a-ride and you get trapped inside. So deal with it!”

But then the cripple bus chugged up to my door, arriving half an hour late.

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