The other afternoon, I got on the tube to go home from work. I was tired, I didn’t feel great, my leg was particularly wobbly. I sat on the bench on the platform as I waited for the train to arrive as I wasn’t up to standing.
After a few minutes the train pulled in and I got up to get on. I’ve got the tube every day after work for years so I know where to stand so I’ll be near the doors when they open. Luckily I’m always going against the general flow of traffic so there’s always a seat, but I prefer to sit in a priority seat for reasons I’ve discussed before so I try to get on first so I can get one as they are always the seats people take first (and again, click here to find out why, if you don’t need to, you shouldn’t). I had my stick, so I was visibly disabled.
A man and a woman stepped in front of me, and when the doors opened they got on before me. They weren’t together. They each sat in one of the priority seats, though there were many other seats free, and as I struggled to move down the carriage to sit down myself I found myself muttering ‘wankers’, at a volume just loud enough for them to hear. I don’t know whether they did, in any case they didn’t say anything.
I’m not proud of myself for reacting in this way. Either or both of them could have had an invisible disability just as I did for many years before I started using a walking stick. Maybe they were wrapped up in their thoughts after a bad day and didn’t notice me. Or maybe they thought ‘it’s fine, there are other seats’, like I used to before I became disabled.
I’m a bit concerned about this change in my attitude. I used to be (I still am, mostly) very quiet, and I keep myself to myself, and I hated confrontation and avoided it at all costs. I assumed the best of everyone, and my hopeful naivety was often to my cost, but I was happy this way. I’d rather believe that other people are essentially good and have my best interests at heart.
Becoming disabled has changed me, and I feel more and more that I need to come out fighting like a cornered animal rather than wait to find out whether I’m going to be treated in the way I need to be.