Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Trespassing Tuba Player



Every big city cripple who rides public transit has experienced that awkward moment. You enter the bus but the seating area that’s reserved for cripples is occupied by someone with a baby carriage.

A stand-off ensues. Now what do you do? Will the person with the carriage refuse to move and escalate this into an ugly confrontation? If so, then you should assert yourself because, after all, that is your spot. The Americans with Disabilities Act is on your side. And a lot of people fought long and hard for the ADA so it is essentially your duty to past and future generations of cripples to insist that the person with the baby carriage vacate your territory. There is no such thing as the Americans with Baby Carriages Act.

But what are you going to do if the person refuses to move? Sue? And right there in the seating area there’s a sign, clear as day, that says PRIORITY SEATING FOR SENIOR CITIZENS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. It doesn’t say a damn thing about baby carriages! But there is no force of law behind that sign. It’s merely a suggestion. Most people obey it not because they’re afraid they’ll get arrested but because they don’t want to be an enormous prick. But what if this particular person with the baby carriage is a proud member of the rapidly growing segment of the populace that isn’t afraid to be an enormous prick and thus refuses to move? And what if you choose not to be the peacemaker by exiting the bus and waiting for the next one? The bus driver will eventually have to call the police and meanwhile everybody will have to wait and your fellow passengers will hate you. You won’t exactly come off as the new Rosa Parks.

Fortunately for me, every time I’ve faced this situation the squatter in the cripple spot has always yielded. But there was one time when things could’ve easily gotten out of hand real quick if not for a twist of fate. Rahnee and I were riding the bus so both cripple spots were occupied. The driver swung over to a bus stop and opened the door. There stood that street musician I’d seen playing tuba on Michigan Avenue. He was pushing a wheelchair and its passenger was a tuba. Apparently he used a wheelchair to tote his horn around town.

The driver told the tuba man that both wheelchair spots were occupied. And the angry tuba man said, “Damn cripples!”

The driver closed the doors and swung away and that was that. But what if the tuba man had gotten on the bus before us and beaten us to the cripple seats? Judging from his reaction, he may well have refused to move. And that would've gotten me riled and I surely would’ve said something like, “According to the ADA, you’re trespassing! There is no such thing as the Americans with Tubas Act! And I don’t see any sign that says PRIORITY SEATING FOR DUMBASS TUBA PLAYERS!” And the tuba man would’ve dug in his heels deeper and the driver would’ve had to call the police and the whole thing would’ve exploded to the point where the fire department would have to come too to extract my head from a tuba using the Jaws of Life and a lot of butter.

And I wouldn’t have exactly come off as the new Rosa Parks.  

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