There’s a twelve paged booklet and one of four sections on the examination to become a Kingston cab driver deals with so-called sensitivity training. Primarily, how we’re to treat the city’s crippled citizen when they get into CAR 29. It’s pretty boiler plate, straight forward if you’re well versed in the latest PC speak n’ terminology, have an ounce of common sense and are basically a decent person. Right up there in the joy I feel serving my old ladies with their walkers is how much I dig the opportunity to shuffle a “differently abled” person around town. My selfishness enjoyment in these opportunities should be quite obvious to you; the chance of another great conversation with these folks is right there, staring me in the face.
I’ll admit, the first time I got a call on my screen that read “PASSENGER IS BLIND” made me a bit uneasy, but my training did kick in, quite naturally. I pulled up to the apartment block door at 290 Bath Road and found Ron right at the top of the steps. I got out, walked around the car, announced that I was his cab and instinctively asked “How blind are ya, and how much help do you need?” Ron told me that he was totally blind and would take any help I would give him. I asked him how the best way to help might be he told me that letting him put his hand on my shoulder and steering him to the railing of the stairs and the cab door would be my best bet.
Ron couldn’t have been a better blind man to have as my first “differently abled” passenger. I asked him if he’d been blind all his life, he told me it was the result of a gunshot wound in his 20s. I mentioned how I’d only had one, partially blind friend in my life, how I thought it was rather silly how she’d been given free Cineplex passes… “How do you feel about deaf people?” Ron was indifferent towards the partially blind, was uneasy with some of the perks he was privy to; had no real issues with deaf people but did have a beef with a few of his blind friends at 290 Bath… “The bastards come down and spill things on my new carpeting and mess up my freshly painted walls… and don’t apologize!” …”I wouldn’t think that’d matter that much too you, Ron?” …We had a few good chuckles on the way to the beer store and back. The pantomime at the Beer Store was good ol' Vaudevillian. I haven’t shopped at an Ontario Beer store in 20 years. OK, inside joke… Ron had himself a good laugh as I towed him, arm on shoulder to the “bottle return” counter by mistake, hmmm the blinded by booze leading the blinded by gunshot into the beer store… or some such.
I’ve met some great folks and had some great conversation and continue to be wowed by just how well most people faced with disabilities do. How they step up and adapt to conditions I shudder to think I might, if one day be afflicted with such conditions. My trip with Ron was a relief in proving to myself that my own sensitivity training has and continues to, for the most part worked for me. Let’s call it the direct “so how’d you end up in the wheelchair?” approach. The “otherwise abled” I’ve met seem to appreciate cutting through the mamby-pamby and getting on with a good conversation. Of course, being genuinely interested in another affliction never hurts. As with most of my fares, the blind, deaf, and legless and all the various shades of crazy people I drive around town do so often put a smile on my face… and remind me to keep “be of good service” grafted onto my heart.