I was sitting on a wicker loveseat, thoughtfully placed between the outside door and the inner door to the lobby of my mother’s assisted living home. I was waiting for my ride to come and take me home after visiting my mother. Being blind, I can’t drive, so I must depend on the kindness of my friends or public transportation. I typically use what is called a “para-transit.” It is operated by our Transit Authority and is available for people with disabilities who are not able to use a regular fixed-route bus. I can’t ride the bus, because there isn’t a bus line between my home and my mother’s. In fact, there isn’t fixed bus route between my house and anything, so I use the para-transit system about 5 times a week. They pick me up at my door and deliver me to my destination, which sounds great, and usually it is, but at times, it’s a real pain in the neck.
As I sat there waiting, I wondered how many hours of my life I would be spending in that foyer. I imagine that it will be freezing in the winter, with the outer door being opened by people going and coming constantly, so I’ll probably have to sit in the lobby and listen to the ever-blaring tv. But it sure beats standing at a bus stop. At least I do have some form of transportation. I have to call at least 24 hours in advance to request a ride, and although I must be ready 15 minutes early, they are allowed to arrive 15 minutes after my designated pick-up time before they are considered late, and I might have to share the ride with one or two other passengers, who might need to be picked up and/or dropped off while I am on the vehicle, but it’s much more affordable than a cab. A cab would probably cost about$25 each way for this trip, and for para-transit, I pay $5 each way.
A few days ago, I arranged for my mother to be evaluated for eligibility for this service. I had filled out all the paperwork, but I still had to take her to the para-transit office for them to interview her. “Do we really have to go through this?” I asked. “My mother is 96. She’s barely able to walk, and she can’t see, and she can’t hear. What more proof do you need to determine she can’t drive or take a regular bus?” It seems that rules are rules, so off we went to get signed up. That’s not as simple as it sounds.
A week before our appointment, I had to arrange my own transportation to and from my mother’s place, so that I could accompany her. She needed me to explain what was happening each step of the process and basically be her ears. On the day of her appointment, I was picked up at8:15in order to be sure to arrive by8:45at Mother’s, for her8:55pick-up. She was ready when I got there, so together, we waited in that foyer. I insisted that she use her wheelchair, rather than the walker, because I was pretty sure that being loaded onto the van with a lift might feel insecure if she were standing with a walker. At the para-transit office, they took her picture for her photo i.d. and took her back to an inner office for her interview. They asked her irrelevant questions like “How long have you had arthritis?” Now seriously, does that really matter? It was a good thing they made me wait in the lobby. They allowed for an hour for this process, but she was done in 15 minutes, which meant that we had to wait 45 minutes for our11:10ride back to the home. The ride back took about 50 minutes, (a 20-minute drive in a car) and then after dropping Mom off, I had about a half-hour ride back to my house. It was12:30before I got home. We were both exhausted. It was a feat of orchestration, but in the end, Mother will have transportation to come and visit me at my house or to church or some other event, without having to impose on my friends. Then she will be the one sitting on that loveseat in that foyer…waiting for her ride.