Thursday, August 18, 2011

Riding downstairs

Regular surfliner riders are familiar with the mantra recited by the conductors:  "Downstairs seating is reserved for seniors and mobility-impaired passengers" and ignore it as they troop to the preferred upstairs seating (in my case, the rush to the Superliner car with its darkened interior and big comfy seats).

Recently, however, I've joined the ranks of the disabled, with a very badly sprained ankle along with a couple of cracked bones. (Trailrunning.)  I've got a big boot on and a cane, and I can't manage the stairs, so I've been sitting down below.  And it's different down here.

For one thing, except for a couple of older regulars, there are very few commuters in the downstairs seating. Most of them are elderly folks off to visit someone.  They are chatty, sometimes irritatingly so.  Me tapping away on  my computer is a novelty.  It's a very different demographic experience.

I've also gotten annoyed at the healthy folks who just ignore the "disabled/senior" signs and sit down.  You may not realize it, but there are a LOT of older  and impaired folks on the train, and the conductors frequently have to help them find seats.  Snorting in disgust or whining when you are asked to move isn't helpful.  Just go upstairs if you can, okay?

And then, what happens if (as happened the other day), the downstairs toilet doesn't work?  It would be easier for some folks to get off the train and on a different car, then try to make it up and down the stairs as the train lurches along the tracks.

The old Horizon/Amfleet trainset (the "cigar" train) is its own challenge.  Since the entry isn't level with the platform, as with the regular Surfliner, it requires navigating a few steps.  I can do it, but it's awkward and  I'm slow.

At LA Union Station, I've realized it's better to use the ramp, then to painfully work my way down the stairs, as all the regulars rush around me and nearly knock me over.  Yeah, I've been guilty of that too...but I've learned a lot being disabled.  Like how everything takes me longer, no matter how fast I want to go.  It's like enforced patience.

So, if you are a regular, try a little patience with the slower folks--they are moving as fast as they can.

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