Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The real reason FDR didn't use his wheelchair in public

My primary mode of transportation for the week is the Metro. Sam, on the other hand, is traveling primarily by stroller. These two modes of transport to not always go well together.

Take, for example, our trip to the zoo on Friday. After arriving at the designated Metro stop, we discovered that the elevator to the street level was out of order. Instead of waiting for another train and riding to the next station, as a posted sign suggested, I decided to collapse Sam's stroller and hold it and him while going up the escalator. Halfway up, I regretted that decision. It was one of those huge escalators that travels up about 5 stories over several hundred yards. As I looked down, I could think of much worse things than getting "sucked under" the moving steps. (Was I the only one afraid of that as a kid?) My load was awkward and unpredictable. I was terrified that the stroller would knock us off balance, or that Sam would lurch unexpectedly and we'd all tumble down. I whispered silent prayers that Sam would be still all the way to the top. He was, but I didn't want to risk it for the return trip, and used the next station instead.

Of course, accessibility issues go beyond the public transit system. Before trekking from the Metro station to the zoo we stopped at McDonald's for some lunch. The restaurant was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. A sign informed us that the wheelchair-accessible entrance was around the back, which meant walking around the block. Once there, I discovered the wheel chair lift was out of order. I was about to turn around to find another place to eat when a solicitous McEmployee volunteered to help me carry the stroller down the stairs.

To get around you just have to know the system, and that takes trial and a lot of error. Some of the Metro stops only have elevators on one side of the station. At some stations you have to take multiple elevators to get to the right side of the tracks. Some of the museums have separate accessible entrances around the corner. Some crosswalks don't have curb ramps. Some destinations should just be avoided altogether. These are tips the tourist brochures don't mention. And it's frustrating to figure it out for yourself.

I find myself relieved that this is a temporary scenario. We do a lot of strolling around Iowa City, but it's not the same kind of logistical nightmare. Under normal circumstances, it's not much trouble for me to get everywhere I want to go.

But there are so many people who don't have it so easy. The first few days of our stay, we shared the hotel with a group of disabled veterans, many of whom were in wheelchairs. I find myself thinking about these folks frequently as I take the long way around buildings and stumble through sidewalk potholes. It makes me feel both blessed and selfish, because amidst the hassles, I've encountered more than my share of kindness. Strangers make room, hold doors, offer their seats, and help us down stairs, all while gooing about how cute Sam is. After a week reaping the benefits, I’m committed to returning the favor. Join me! Share the love, pass it on, pay it forward, lend a hand--whatever! And enjoy the thanks of a grateful, frazzled mommy.


Tarimisu said...

Girl, I am so with you. I have traveled a lot with kids, with and without help, and have depended on the kindess of friends and strangers. I started flying with Eliza before she was one, and was grateful for any help I could find. Now I going it alone with three kids, and be it on a road trip or a trip to the doctor, it is nice to have any help from anywhere - if it's just having a door held open for us. When I do get to go to Wal-Mart all alone (like once a year), I find myself automatically taking care of some stranger's kids! Yay for helping out other people.

Taffy said...

Amen! I like to think of times and seasons. Sometimes it's a season of giving help and sometimes it's a season of receiving help.

Sarah Johnson said...

I know how you feel. Perhaps I am just preparing myself for living in a wheelchair one day, because pushing strollers has made me aware of all the doors that open automatically and where the hidden ramps are. Hang in there. Lately, as Isaak runs around freely, I wish for stroller days again.