Posted in Travels

The Bus That Waited

Yesterday I wrote about my experience as a recently disabled person catching the bus for the first time since moving to Toowoomba. I remember thinking as I wrote it that I had probably exhausted the last of my good karma that morning. Life couldn’t possibly have anything else in store for me on this topic. I was wrong.

This morning’s adventure involved a different destination and therefore a different bus stop. After yesterday’s almost experience of almost missing the bus, I wanted to make sure that this time I had left nothing to chance or circumstance, so I left home a good ten minutes earlier than Googlemaps had estimated that I would need to reach my bus stop with time to spare. What I hadn’t anticipated was the hill.

You might remember that yesterday I found that the slight upward slope leading to my bus stop for USQ presented me with a bit of a challenge. Luckily, I can still use a walker to support myself for doing things around the house, so my wheelchair became my walker for that part of the journey and I made it to the bus on time without (much) further ado. I had enough oomph in my unsteady legs to make it up that small geographical bump, but I think it made me a tad unrealistic as to the altitudes I should attempt to tackle on future adventures. Enter – the hill on Stenner St.

Did I say hill? I meant monolith.

OK, slight exaggeration but that’s what it felt like. Past Ballin Park I set the brakes and steadied myself for the walk up the hill, a distance of less than 100 metres on the map. But in reality this insignificant little slope took me more than ten minutes to ascend, pushing my wheelchair in front of me as I went so that it served at the same time as both necessary balance and unanticipated ballast. And at the close of the ten minutes, I suddenly realised that I was once again at risk of being late for the bus.

At the top of the little hill where Stenner St meets Ramsay St, the landscape flattens out to the point that I could quite easily wheel myself the remaining hundred metres or so without enduring too much arm torture. The bus stop I was heading to can be clearly seen from the roundabout where you stand at the corner. So I started to make my way there.

That’s when I saw the bus. It appeared over the rise and trundled past the bus stop I was almost at in less than a few short but not terribly sweet seconds. But all was not lost. I realised that there was another bus stop just around the corner and if I could move fast enough, I could get there before the bus arrived. All I had to do was beat the bus.

I had continued to wobble along behind my chair, pushing it as I went as best I could, and I had reached the final corner just as the bus was turning across it. It was already on its way down the street, and there was no way I could make the 150 metres that remained to be travelled in that direction, even if it was downhill. I wasn’t going to make it.

In hopeful (or possibly delusional) desperation, I waved to the driver as he encountered me at the corner, pointing down towards the nearby bus stop, indulging in a bout of impromptu street charades to signal the bus driver of my sincere intention to board the bus at the next available stop. We made eye contact as he steered the vehicle the necessary ninety degrees through the intersection and then he looked around before continuing on his way. I watched the bus get smaller, resigned to my fate, as it headed off towards the centre of town, not taking me with it.

Except it didn’t. A moment later the driver pulled to the side of the road as soon as it was safe, waited a good minute and a half before I could make it past the sudden gauntlet of corner-turning cars, (where did they come from?) and helped me on board the bus when I finally, eventually reached him on the other side of the street. And he smiled as he did it.

As I wheeled myself, exhausted but relieved, over the extendable ramp and onto the Bus That Waited, I caught a glimpse of the bus stop located further down the street that I had been trying to make it to. It was at least another 50 metres ahead of us.

In Tennessee Williams classic tragedy, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, the embattled and eventually broken Blanche DuBois confesses to the doctor who has come to take her to the mental asylum, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

I must admit, I haven’t done that very much before now. But perhaps I might have to start.

Also, I will leave home  at least ten minutes earlier next time.