The gap between the platform and the train is a different height every time I get on the subway at Bleecker Street station. Sometimes there is almost no gap at all and I get on the train smoothly. Sometimes the gap is high and I doubt I will be able to make it. I have to either ‘’attack’’ the gap and use all my wheelchair driver abilities to be able to get on, or wait for the next train and hope the gap is smaller this time around.
The train arrives. The gap is just high enough that it’s scary, but not high enough that I decide to give up and wait for the next train. So I go. I attack the gap. And I win. Just as the closing doors are grazing the back of my wheelchair.
“Do I have to get off at Brooklyn Bridge station to get on the 5?” asks a passenger standing in front me. He looks at me. It is obvious that he is speaking to me but it takes me a second to acknowledge that he is in fact speaking to me. Hardly ever do people ask me appropriate questions. I am used to questions of the intrusive and paternalistic kind. Questions about directions are not in the directory of questions usually addressed to me. This guy should be telling me something about my wheelchair, about the gap, about my incredible courage to be out in public. But instead he asks me if he can transfer to the 5 at Brooklyn Bridge station.
“Yes,” I reply with a smile.
“Thank you! The subway is complicated.”
“Yes, it is!”
Surprisingly, this short conversation ends just as it started. With no awkward, ableist comments or looks.
This is very, very unusual.