Priority seating. For persons of reduced mobility.

I’ve seen these words a thousand times on Edmonton ETS busses. So have you. So has everyone else and we all think we know what they mean but do we really? Pregnant women, the elderly, anyone with a crutch or cane or walker, children under 6. That’s the list, right?

You’d think that’s it. After all, if you can stand and it’s crowded, you should. Yet, there are many disabilities that don’t use a cane or a wheelchair. There are people who simply can’t stand for long periods even though they look healthy. Epilepsy doesn’t require a cane or wheelchair and there’s no sign they need a seat. Yet, for someone who suffers seizures, sitting down during an attack can make a huge difference to them. There are other physical ailments that “don’t show” but require a seat.

What got me thinking about this was an event that happened to me yesterday. I was coming from a networking event which always leave me a bit wrung out. I’m an introvert with anxiety. Going to those things takes a force of will that is epic. So, when I come home on the bus I always sit in the back corner so I can quietly come down. It may sound strange to others but for me it’s a necessity.

Driver turning left from the oncoming traffic lane

Driver turning left from the oncoming traffic lane

That’s exactly what happened when some moron decided to turn left from the lane that my bus was on. Let me set the scene, this guy was going the opposite direction and had pulled into the oncoming lane of traffic to turn left. Yes, that’s a picture of him there. My bus driver tried to move past him and should have had enough room but he started creeping out and CRASH! The bus clipped him. Let me say this clearly; this was IN NO WAY the bus driver’s fault.

The result of this was I had to get off the bus and take the next one which was already crowded. My beloved seat at the back was taken and then came a baby carriage. BAM! Full blown anxiety attack.

Let me say why I object to baby carriages. I opted to not have children and, yet, I’m treated like a second class citizen for it. I’m told repeatedly that I’m selfish or that I have a sad and lonely life. I’m told I’ll regret it later in life or that I hate children (kids freak me out but I don’t hate them). I don’t get money every month from the government for a choice I made. I don’t get tax breaks. I don’t get special considerations. At the moment that carriage came on the bus I was having an anxiety attack bad enough to make breathing difficult and force me to close my eyes. Sitting in that seat was the only thing keeping me from climbing the walls. Now I had to give up that seat for a carriage that takes up three seats on its own and another two seats for mom and her friend. That’s five seats for three people. Seats I had to give up because she chose to have kids and I didn’t. I lose.

Yet, that priority seating on ETS busses don’t consider an anxiety attack enough of a handicap to get consideration. This is why I sit in the back corner. Don’t get me wrong, I hold no ill will towards that mother and her child. She gets consideration and I don’t. That’s life. I get it. Life isn’t always fair.

At this point my options were limited. Get off the bus and hope the next one was less crowded or stay and just endure it for a while more. I managed to finish my ride standing next to the driver where I got a lecture about what a horrible person I was for taking a picture of the accident instead of staying around (four other people stayed to act as witnesses, I didn’t deem it necessary and I was trying to stave off an impending anxiety attack). By the time I finished the ride, I barely made it home where I burst into a fit of hysterical crying so bad my neighbour came over to see what was wrong.

I get it. I’m not a priority. Nor are the other people who don’t use canes or wheelchairs. We’re not visibly handicapped. ThereforeĀ our disability is less real or less important than others. I don’t expect everything to be fair but I would like it if people would reassess that designation; priority seating.