I can’t drive. I’ve never been able to drive, and even though my housemate is encouraging me to get a driver’s license so I don’t have to use a passport as a form of ID all the time and so that I can drive in an emergency situation, I doubt I will ever be a driver. When I lived at university, nearly everything I needed was in walking distance, or I could depend on the private student-only University bus system to get from my house to the school or downtown.Now, I have to depend on my housemate’s friend, who lives with us, in order to get rides downtown, to the post office, the library, the grocery store, and other places I need to go on about a weekly basis. There is a grocery store which is, theoretically, within “walking distance”, but “walking distance” doesn’t calculate for when carrying heavy groceries and for people who have scoliosis and a history of back problems. So, I’ll usually ask “Thomas” for rides so that I can get things done, but it’s getting irritating to do so, because he doesn’t like leaving his garage (he’s an unemployed mechanic) to drop me off places, and has lately taken to responding to my requests with sarcastic remarks along the lines of, “Anywhere you need to go, your majesty! Your chauffeur is here for you!”
I don’t like asking Thomas for rides. But I have no other choice in the matter, unless I wish to be essentially a shut-in living off of canned goods. This is one of the reasons I am excited to be moving to Victoria, it is supposed to be much more bike-friendly than Missoula, so I can get myself to most places I need to be (Jaime doesn’t drive either, she says there are far too many variables on the road at once and she gets overwhelmed) without depending on the whims and attitude of another person. I’m not alone in having to do this. Many disabled people who can’t drive depend on driver services to get to everyday places, and these services can be expensive, unreliable, and inconvenient.
Living here and having to be at the mercy of whether or not Thomas “feels like” leaving the house and giving me a ride has reminded me of how little consideration the lives of disabled people are given when it comes to city planning and car-centric cities and towns. When I remind people of how an overly urban area with no sidewalks where everything is spread out is often inaccessible, people often shrugged and told me, “Just take the bus.” Great idea! Except not all buses are wheelchair accessible all the time (The ones at the university almost always had broken wheelchair ramps, especially in winter when rust and frozen gears were an issue) bus fumes and noise can cause nightmares for people with sensory issues, the crowding can be awful for people with sensory issues related to being touched, and buses have been, in my experience, a place where people seem to think, even with my earbuds in, a book in my hands, or a murderous “Leave me the fuck alone” glance on my face, that I am willing to be flirted with or dragged into conversation.
Also, specifically in my case, I have a terrible sense of direction. I sway slightly when I’m walk, which makes me look a little drunk, and I cannot memorize bus routes unless I ride it repeatedly and repetitively attempt to memorize bus numbers and name places. Unless I had an escort with me, the bus would be utterly impractical. I’d repeatedly get lost.
For the sake of disability rights, a better community, and a reduction in how much gasoline is consumed, communities should consider how they expand, how cities are planned, and the practicality of having all of the businesses in the city and the residences in suburbs which require driving to and from to get to the city. There is truly no need to have such a wide-set city with poorly maintained sidewalks and bike routes and such a huge distance between houses and businesses.
Also, I hope that Thomas feels like giving “her majesty” a ride tomorrow, she needs to mail some things and pick up a few things, and go grocery shopping, because the fridge is almost empty. Hope that’s not too much trouble to take 15 minutes out of a busy day of pimping out a set of jeep wheels to do that! /bitter sarcasm
Edit to add: In case anyone is wondering, I do almost all of the housework, cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping in the house when my housemate is gone, and I am polite to Thomas. So please don’t fill my comment box with ideas on how I am acting “entitled” and “spoiled” by asking him to drive me places. I would starve and live in isolation if I didn’t ask him this semi-weekly favour.