A Guide To Being Conspicuous – Part 1: The Bus

It’s a warm day. The bus area at Glen Waverley seems quieter than usual. Well quieter in terms of pedestrian traffic. The ambient sounds of bus engines, a few crows and the distant sound of platform announcements from the station fill the air. A woman at my bus bay sits in the shelter by herself. She starts signing. First I can’t work out what it is but then realise it’s Silent Night. She’s kind of loud and slightly off key. She sees me and asks if I want to sit down. I politely decline. She springs to her feet as the bus pulls in. An external announcement says ‘this is the route 902 – service to Airport West’. As much as I complain about buses, I do have to say that an external announcement telling you which route it is is extremely helpful. Why trams and trains can’t employ this technology is a mystery to me.

We enter the bus. Silent Night Woman runs to the door and bounces onto the bus – exclaiming ‘yes I get the front seat!’ as she sits down looking very pleased with herself. I walk down the aisle and some dude sees my cane. He jumps out of his seat, without a word, moving quickly down to the back of the bus like a frightened sparrow. A woman exclaims ‘THERE’S A SEAT THERE!’ in a loud, slowed down voice, as the bus pulls out from the curb and commences the next leg of its journey.

An internal automated announcement informs us that ‘the next stop is The Glen Shopping Centre’ but seriously you’d need hearing aids with a decent amount of amplification to hear that.

Some bus drivers seem to not be able to speak at all, others seem to over-compensate barking things like ‘BE SEATED’ as you enter the bus – spoken in a tone of voice that a parent might use on a small child. I don’t actually need to seat down. Or have things spelt out to me loudly and slowly. It’s like people think vision impairment is a physical and intellectual disability. Like most people, if I stand, I hold onto something or lean against something.

I have also experienced people physically grabbing you, often without communication, pulling you towards that seat you apparently need. Or informing others that ‘he needs to sit down’. Like they have bad news to impart upon me.

Someone sent me a message about my Inappropriate Bus Behaviour post – as a fellow person with a vision impairment, he’d thought we – as a society – would have improved over the years. But that this is sadly not the case.

I’m going to finish with two more bus driver quotes. One was at the stop outside where I work. There are three different routes that go past here, so until a bus pulls up, you don’t always know if it’s yours. I saw a bus, flagged him down, then realised it wasn’t mine. I apologised and thanked him for stopping. He says ‘thanks for making me stop when I didn’t have to.’ – I pointed out that I have a vision impairment. Really, if I could see enough to read those bus numbers, I’d probably be driving to work.

The last one for this post was a bus I’d caught into the city – to meet colleagues from a previous job. As we approached my stop, I stood up and approached the door. I’d think fairly normal bus catching behaviour. The driver opens his window and exclaims ‘MATE, SIT DOWN, IF I SLAM ON THE BRAKES YOU’LL GO THROUGH THE WINDSCREEN!’ – well if you have to ‘slam on the brakes’ maybe you shouldn’t be driving a bus. I didn’t actually say that though, I just ignored him.

Vision impairment doesn’t affect common sense.

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