As much as I complain about transit, I know that it’s a valuable part of our city and for the most part, I find it to be okay.
But maybe it’s not so much transit, but the people who are on it, that I may have a different attitude towards.
Last night I was feeling nauseous and I couldn’t sleep because of it. I found that if I stayed completely still, I could get by.
When I got up in the morning, walking from place to place to get ready was a bit of a logistical nightmare. The same went for walking to the bus stop, and getting off the bus to the SkyTrain.
I waited out two trains to ensure that I could get a seat, and I did get one, climbing over a man who was stone-faced and meant business.
These spells that I get – dizziness, nausea, and intense back pain – all came about from a minor accident that I found myself in about a year and a half prior.
At face value, I do look like a healthy twenty-something who is more than capable of waiting out my entire commute standing as opposed to sitting down. But today was different, and seeing as I was in a seat that was not on the outside, I thought I could get through without incident and just hold my seat until I got to my stop.
But the trouble began once an elderly lady came on the train.
Of course, there is a social protocol to be followed. Those that were currently occupying easy access seats – the ones reserved for the elderly, disabled, and women that were pregnant – should be freed up when people come onto the train that demonstrate such need.
No one freed up their spot. Perhaps it was the fact that the train at rush hour was packed and moving around was difficult. In any case, people were getting restless, picking at each person to move for this elderly lady. But no one did.
No one wanted to mess with the guy I was sitting with either, so they turned their attention to me. People asked me – abrasively – to vacate my spot for this elderly lady. On a normal day I would, but today I just really did not want to move.
But people were getting angry. They were calling me able-bodied. They were calling me selfish. Feeling panicked, I blurted out my condition. But no one really cared.
They continued to push, throwing out the words ‘selfish’ and ‘faker’ until finally I got off the train. People cheered, rolling their eyes at how selfish I had been. As I got off, I heard a voice call out, “go back to China, and take your beady eyes with you.”
There are so many problems with this, so here are a couple of thoughts.
Physical appearance doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s true, on a regular day I am able-bodied. I can stand through a 35 minute Skytrain ride. I will gladly offer up my seat if it’s needed. But there are a lot of health conditions – such as epilepsy – where the saying “don’t just a book by its cover” rings true. The case of Surrey resident Tavia Marlatt, who has epilepsy, is just one example.
I’m not here to say that what I was dealing with and what Marlatt has to endure is equal. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, both Marlatt and senior citizens who, being of advanced age and maybe a little more fragile, deserve to have seating.
What about the person dozing off in front of me, or the woman who was on her phone the whole time? You could say they have thicker skin, or maybe they too have something that runs deeper than the surface shows. But calling someone selfish, fake, and other hurtful and nasty things and entirely unnecessary.
Which brings me to my next thought.
If you think racism is dead and that we have moved on, think again.
Today has proven to me, with the one comment called out to me as I left the train, that ignorance and racism is still very, very present.
I’ve been told to “go back to where I came from” a number of times in my life so far, with the most recent incident before today being last week at the mall.
It’s an ugly truth.
So here’s a thought: don’t use race as a line of attack. If you want to get something done, attacking people, calling them names and using racial and derogatory slurs will do nothing for you.
Truthfully, I get angry and frustrated when things don’t go my way. But attacking people because of their race, their appearance, or any part of them – physical or otherwise – is low.
In fact, ‘low’ doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the disappointment that I feel when people say things like this.
I’m saddened today by what happened, but society tells me to move on. To get over myself and not be so sensitive. And at the end of it all, I will. I’ll try not to take being called a “selfish, able-bodied” person to heart and I’ll continue to call this place my home.
But if you care at all about progress and this world moving forward, this entire post can be boiled down to a simple truth: be kind and think before you speak.