I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in Wheel-Trans vehicles as of late, thanks to a seemingly endless stream of appointments in combination with the fact that I’m able to go more places independently and am taking advantage of Wheel-Trans’ services for these other excursions, too.
Though I usually plan to read, listen to a podcast, or stare aimlessly out the window while in transit, my ambitions almost never come to fruition. Instead, I inevitably end up conversing with the driver or with someone else in the cab, or both. It’s a good way to make friends, even if these relationships are foreordained to be short-lived and sometimes challenge me in unexpected ways. (Just like friendships in real life, right? Love you, pals. <3)
Indeed, I’ve learned a great deal, about the world and about myself, from my conversations with the People of Wheel-Trans—and yes, I’m going to try to make People of Wheel-Trans a thing. Maybe this is what’ll make my blog finally go viral?
In this post, I’ll write about just one of many recent interactions, saving more for later. Gotta keep you on the edge of your collective seat somehow.
It was a few weeks ago, and I was en route to my day-hospital program. My driver, a pretty pleasant dude, asked me how my day was going. I replied with more than “fine,” and with that, my chances of reading beyond a sentence of the dystopian novel set in a beehive that I had planned on finishing during the drive were gone.
He had some questions for me and went right for it: “Why are you going to the rehab hospital?” I looked OK, he continued, so … what was wrong with me? And then, hit by a flash of self-awareness, he asked if he was allowed to ask what he had just, well, asked.
A little annoyed and a lot uncomfortable, I briefly considered responding with an emphatic “no.” I paused before speaking, though, understanding from his tone of voice that his intentions were good and that instead of shutting him down, I could use this as an opportunity to spread epilepsy awareness or whatever.
“In the future, it’s probably best not to ask passengers for this kind of personal health information. Not everyone feels good about providing it,” I replied. This, in case it wasn’t clear, was my attempt at diplomacy. “But since you did …” (cue concise, matter-of-fact description of epilepsy, brain surgery, and brain injury).
“Wow,” he said. “You’re very lucky.” (Uh huh.) “It doesn’t really seem like there’s something the matter with your brain. You speak in a very smooth way.” He took a second to curse at a smart car that had cut him off in traffic. “Plus, you’re very polite.”
I won’t fully dissect his statements and analyze what made them problematic, but I will indulge in a few observations.
First, I am lucky: the complications from the procedures that I had earlier this year could have been much, much worse. I’ll give him that.
Second, and related: there’s so much going on in my brain that isn’t visible unless you’re a medical professional or actively looking for it. I’m usually very grateful that I can navigate day-to-day life in a relatively “smooth” manner, to use his term; I’ll come back to that “usually” some other time (maybe, if I feel like it/don’t forget).
Third: thanks, Wheel-Trans Driver! I do my best to remember my manners. My parents should be proud.
As we continued to talk, he, genuinely curious, kept shooting me questions that I answered to the best of my abilities. It was kind of refreshing, in a sense, to have someone present me with their stereotypes regarding neurological conditions and brain injuries in such a plainspoken manner, laid bare, like the unadorned pitas that I love so dearly. In the end, we laughed and bonded. He told me about his eight-year-old daughter, whom he takes for ice cream every Friday. It happened to be a Friday; it made me want ice cream. He dropped me off, and I thanked him for the ride. (This, of course, confirmed my politeness. I aim to please.)
In sum, this was a good reminder that people are, by nature, inquisitive—well, most people are, anyway. I can come up with a few exceptions to this general rule, though I’ll refrain from naming them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how few questions, looks, and stares I get when I’m out and about with my cane or rollator, but I’ll admit that I often wish that I knew what strangers on the street—or acquaintances or friends, for that matter—wonder about my situation. Are there things they’d like to ask but are too afraid to? What do the employees at my local coffee shop, people I chat with almost every day, think? They see me now, with my mobility devices, they saw me in my pre-mobility-device era, they’ve seen me pre– and post–hair transformation, including when my scar stretched across my skull, stubbornly visible; they must be curious about what happened, on some level. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want my everyday interactions to centre on my health issues—I’m happy to simply order a coffee and gossip for a few minutes about neighbourhood goings-on. At the same time, it’s weird that there’s this big unspoken in some of my casual relationships.
With my Wheel-Trans driver, that day, there wasn’t space for many unspokens. Rather than let his forwardness irritate me (more than a little), however, I chose to be refreshed by his openness.