Trains suck. I lived in Piermont, NY for 8 months, and my commute to school/work was 70 minutes each way. I didn’t mind the ride itself; I got a lot of work done during those commutes. The part that sucked was that trains can get extremely crowded sometimes, especially during rush hour and on holidays. Luckily, my commute isn’t that long anymore since I’m back in New Jersey, but my biggest problem with commuting hasn’t gotten easier.
I was interning in NYC this past semester. That meant I had to battle other commuters for a spot on an always-crowded Path train twice a week. Getting elbowed in the face by someone taller than you is bad enough on its own, but couple that with sharp pains in your back and feet and you have a recipe for a bad mood and crappy day.
Like many other trains, the Path has a designated handicap section. When I was healthy, I didn’t put much thought into their purpose. But let’s think about this: would the average person really give up their seat for someone like me? Someone young who looks perfectly healthy? Chances are, no. And chivalry is dead on trains (except for that time when a 15 year-old boy offered me his seat and I was shocked speechless). I think in general people expect “handicap” to mean that you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches and look the part of someone who cannot stand up on a crowded train. Even then, some people are inconsiderate enough to not move for those people. What reaction do you think people will have if I asked someone to give up their seat for me? Interesting to think about. I know I would never test that theory. Part of me is still a bit too proud to admit defeat, as stupid as that is. Point being, we really do need to stop judging people based on appearances only. Lots of people are suffering in silence because they’re worried about the stigma or backlash. That’s the worst part about having an invisible illness-even worse than the illness itself.