My trip in to work is quite long, it involves a 15 minute walk, a 20 minute train trip and a 25-30 minute bus ride. But I knew that when I took the job on – and like most public transport users, I am also very aware of what happens when your modes of transport don’t line up and how that can make the trip even longer. Extra time spent standing on a platform or at a bus stop, awaiting the commencement of the next leg of your journey into the office. To be fair, the trip generally is fairly smooth. Though I would like to still reserve the right to complain about it – especially in those cold winter months.
You get to see familiar faces on the train and bus each day. The same people going to the same places, sitting in the same seats, it almost feels like you know them – except you don’t.
There are small odd things that happen regularly. Like a person who moves to another seat when you sit next to them. It’s quite rude really when you think about it. I mean I definitely showered today! And I’m not sure that vision impairment is contagious.
Occasional seat offers, people grabbing you without speaking, people discussing your requirements with each other when you are clearly within earshot. It is a stand up comedy routine just waiting to happen.
Recently on my trip to work – I was running for a bus. It had already arrived and was sitting at the stop. My train had arrived late that day. Anyone familiar with bus bays will know that the gutter line isn’t straight, it curves in and out so buses can park in a line on slight angles. Some engineering student probably got a HD for that idea. Navigating along this gutter line can be a challenge. I’m running, cautiously, so I don’t step off, but getting enough speed so I don’t miss the bus – you know the old saying ‘time, tide and bus drivers do not wait’.
I jump on the bus just as it’s about to pull out and I can feel a sense of relief. Which is quickly silenced by a massive amount of laughter I hear from beside me. A group of teenage girls from a local Catholic school think that I clearly looked funny. They laugh and point and giggle to themselves. One of them pulls out her phone, points it at me and snaps a photo. A happy snap to preserve for eternity. Or at least for her Snapchat followers. ‘That weird guy with a. disability who ran for the bus, looks so stupid!’ – she uploads it to Snapchat and shares her handle with a stranger on the bus who is also laughing. She even spells it out to him twice so he has it correct. He eventually stops laughing and says to one of the girls ‘it’s not that funny!’ – perhaps a wave of guilt has passed over him?
The girls go on laughing, eventually they get off at their stop and the bus returns to its usual silent state, disturbed occasionally by a ‘the next stop is’ announcement.
And I am left to wonder what ever became of that photo?
It’s a new age of trial by social media. Once upon a time, that moment would have perhaps caused a few laughs that might have lasted 2-3 bus stops. But now, it results in a photo, a status update, shares and likes and a thread of responses that you maybe don’t want to think too much about.
I could insert a rant here about community attitudes towards people who look different. I could go on about inappropriate use of social media. Teenagers have behaved like this since the dawn of time, they just have different stages and platforms now than what they used to have.
In my opinion, the biggest issue here is education. How we are taught at home and at school.