making room

We like to blame people, be angry with people, when we are down and cranky, at the best of times. So when we are having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, it is worse. We look for easy targets, people who are vulnerable, people we feel “better than”. It is ironic to me that the very same people who obsess about “s/he’s no better than me” are the ones who need to build themselves up at the expense of others.

Today I was on the bus and we stopped to welcome a passenger in a wheelchair. The driver did the usual, he asked the folks sitting near the driver to move so that he could fold the seats to make room for the wheelchair. I am always amazed at how quickly and effortlessly the drivers do this. It takes no time at all. There were three persons displaced but the good news was that there were plenty of empty seats on the bus. Two of the passengers went to those easy seats but one, a slim woman in her 30’s, stood in front of me. I don’t know why she chose to speak to me but she bent over to say something. I assumed it would be something like, “it’s amazing how quickly the drivers can do that” or “poor guy, it’s so cold today, it’s a shame he needs to use the bus.” But that is not what she said. Instead she said, “how come he has to use the bus, can’t he use an Access Bus?” Wow!

I am always staggered by persons who have no sense of empathy. This man was in a wheelchair, he was not demanding, the driver asked nicely if the passengers could move so he could make room for this disabled man. And yet this able-bodied passenger’s first reaction was, “can’t he use an Access Bus”? I was speechless, which is rare for me. But the university student sitting next to me heard the woman and responded to her, “Access Buses are not convenient, they often don’t run at times when we need them.” I liked her spunk, even if the comment about the Access Bus was directed at me.

The standing passenger was not impressed, she said, “but I was the one who had to move.” The student sitting next to me responded, “But there are many empty seats on this bus.” And the standing passenger said, “But I had to move.” And then came the silence.

We are so much better as a society in terms of how we see each other’s differences; orientation, gender, religion, ethnicity, disabilities, etc…BUT we have developed a newer and more potent challenge, “the needs of ME”. We have developed into a culture, with technology’s help, that enables people to see the world entirely through their own self-interest. If I have to move so that a disabled man can get on my bus this puts me out. It is all about me.

Can we be evolving into a more open and inclusive culture but also one that lacks consideration for the other? Stay tuned.