Don’t Be Hateful, Be Grateful, I Know

by Kevin Burton

   When my mother came to visit me in Iowa she flew in, meaning she didn’t have a car for the visit and we got around by using the little ride service I used.

   If I remember correctly, we had to call twice and do a little polite coaxing to get someone to fetch us from the Hardees and take us back to my apartment on Third St.

   “You just found out what it’s like to be blind,” I told her after our 20-minute wait stretched past an hour.

   She said the experience gave her a greater understanding of what I go through.

   Of course I could have said something like “I’m so blessed to have a transportation option even though I’m legally blind and don’t drive.”

   And of course, getting around town is not the whole living-while-blind story. But this is where my mind is camped today, on transportation.

      My wife Jeannette is the most thankful person I know.  We live in a small town on the edge of the county where Wichita, Kansas is.  I’m not completely ungrateful or entitled, but I do get, let’s say frayed around the edges, trying to deal with my current ride service. 

   Sighted reader, are you not grateful for your car(s), but do you not complain once in a while about gas prices, car maintenance, road conditions, parking?

   The ride service I use now is a county program that provides transportation from rural towns in the county into Wichita. This is mostly for employment but they do take people to medical and other types of appointments. They take me to visit my mother at her assisted living facility most Thursdays.

   I could not have moved outside of Wichita in 2012 and kept the job I had at the time. So I am glad the program was/is in place.

   They used to keep my job schedule plugged into their computer and I only had to call them to make a change.  They would show up too early in the morning sometimes, too late in the afternoon, but I could reliably make the hours for an 8-to-5 job.

   Now riders have to call in advance to schedule rides and can not schedule more than a week out.  For the life of me I can’t understand what they have gained by doing that. And as for me, with a busy stressful schedule and an older brain, I run the risk of not remembering to call.

   Eventually I will forget, it’s just a matter of time.

   This was particularly galling to me when Jeannette and I went on vacation last month.  I dreaded even asking this because I knew the answer, but I asked them if they could please make an exception for me since I was going to be out of town, on vacation and run an even higher risk of forgetting to call.

   No, they said.

   When I remembered to make the call on vacation Monday the staffer said “are you in Hawaii” like this was some big celebration for her. Thereafter I called just before 8 a.m. so as to leave a message and not speak to an actual person.

   This was not wrong of them. The rules are written in a little government book somewhere and there is no provision for exceptions.

   So it wasn’t wrong, but I say it was small of them. I have been riding with them for ten years (minus the time I didn’t work because of the virus). I think they have forgotten the purpose behind the program, the actual disabled people, trying to live lives, provide for their families. 

   Also, this service once in a while is known to make the tiniest of errors regarding how many rides I have left.  The service is subsidized and I pay $3 each way for a ride.

   This defies the laws of statistical probability, but don’t you know that each and every time there has been a tiny error, it has been a tiny error in their favor? Go figure.

   If they need more money from me, I wish they would just be honest about it and raise the price.    

   I used to have a job helping blind people find work.  In that capacity, I talked to a lot of blind people from rural parts of the country where there was no ride service bad or good. 

   If they had any transportation options at all, chances are they would not have moved halfway across the country to accept the kind of low-level job I usually had for them.  They would be over-the-moon grateful for any ride service at all.  

   So spinning a tale like this to them, “oh I have to call to schedule the same ride over and over…” that wouldn’t cut too much ice. 

   I get it. I am blessed. My glass is not just half full, it’s overflowing. I just need to vent sometimes, just a little.

   And now I have to go. I’m going to visit my mother today and my ride will be here in two hours.

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