Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a soppy funny movie about the John Candy and Steve Martin characters trying to get home for Christmas when everything was closed during a blizzard!
In my real life version we have planes where wheelchair bound passengers are asked, then told to stand up and walk down a staircase onto the tarmac because, well, “your just like everyone else.” When they don’t because they can’t federal police, not medical staff are called. When said passenger finally disembarks its via a cherrypicker complete with nasty sludge pool on its floor. They say sleeping with “virgins” can be over rated, I say flying with them is a bloody nightmare!
Then there is the marvelous Australian buses, trams and trains. Now while I must give the state of Queensland much kudos for fully working, well kept elevators at nearly every train stop no matter how small, they are the exception not the rule. Generally, Australia wide, there is a total lack of safety for the wheelchair bound passenger on any public transport. Let me explain ,when you get on a bus in New York City the driver gets up, operates a small elevator, pushes you into place and securely straps you in for the trip! Granted, sometimes annoying but bloody safe . Now for the ausssie version, a middle aged over weight man grumbles “where you getting off mate,” as he sets up a feeble excuse for a ramp secured only by the toe of his work boot on any number of surfaces, then to my surprise when I get on, I’m left to my own devices. Their version of safety is a square of floor with a wheelchair symbol painted on it and one pitiful excuse for a handle (if your lucky) and you hold on for bloody dear life.
If you want comfort and door to door service, you call Maxi Taxis or Access Cabs (depending on your state). So long as you are willing to wait until such taxi becomes available as the operator makes clear that they cannot and will not gaurantee pick up times. When they finally arrive, you know they have made it because they are smelly mini buses with stains and tears from god knows what, normally driven by a grumbling scrooge like characters who will happily point out that if you are in a motorized wheelchair they are doing you a favor by picking you up because motorized wheelchair do not denote a handicap, they are a luxury… Really? Otherwise you get the arrogant, bored young guy who’d rather be anyplace else and we know that because he spends the entire ride complaining to his mate on the cell about how much he hates his job. Feeling welcome yet? If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, how about the fact that the last time I checked it was illegal and against every taxi code in the country to take calls while driving no matter what the language. How about Price Gouging? They turn the metre on the moment they pull up, take their dear sweet time loading you and strapping you in (at least they do that in a car) while giving you their life story. As an example of just how expensive your ride can be, in the town of Nambour, Queensland where you can spit from one side to the other, its on average 10 dollars on the metre before even leaving your driveway. Just one more taxi reality… this past New Years Eve, in an attempt to be good and plan ahead, we rang Suncoast Cabs at 11am to ask when we should call them to arrange a pick up for approx 1am. We were immediately informed, by an amused operater “are you kidding, those busses seat 10. They are all booked by groups for New Years.” She continued to inform us that there would be no picking up of disabled folks in disabled taxis on New Years even though these cabs are government subsidized to give first preference at all times to disabled people. Impressed yet?
Really Australia we are citizens, we are your family, some of us ended up in chairs fighting for the bloody country yet we are bled dry by transport companies, belittled by airlines and barely tolerated by buses and trains. If you want to forget about us, say so. If you would rather we went quietly into the goodnight, screw you – we’re staying right here!!! i
So if you want to charge me the one good arm or leg I have left then BLOODY EARN IT WITH DECENT SERVICE AND RESPECT. Just because we have wheels under our asses doesnt mean we dont have brains and do our bit every day for this great country.
P.S. And to the Pentacostals of this world rushing up to me in my wheelchair, grabbing me, pulling me backwards to lay hands on me and pray for a cure, its not nice, it’s bloody assault. Get off the cross some else needs the wood.