About a month ago, I was heading to work. I take the local Lynx Buses, the public transportation here in Orlando. The buses are my lifeblood, both a blessing and a curse.
But lucky for me, I qualify for a free pass under the Department of Blind Services, which for a girl working the “glorified carney” circuit here in America’s theme park heaven, it has saved me money and the many trips downtown for passes.
As I boarded the bus and flashed my passes, a paper card signed by the Department of Blind Services and my purple reduced fare card, I was approached by a young man asking me to take a survey about my experience on the buses.
As I was giving him my feedback, a fellow passenger started cussing me and the gentleman out for him “interviewing a moocher of the system and not a paying customer.”
As the gentleman explained he could interview the rather infuriated man, I flashed my work ID, explaining that although I get the pass for free, I am still paying taxes to find the system out of my paycheck. But before I could finish, the driver pulled over and asked the man to leave for causing a disturbance.
As he was leaving, he asked the gentleman why he was wasting his time getting input from me.
Oh, if only he knew.
When I worked for Disney, my life revolved around a very strict schedule, where I would leave my neighborhood at 6:45 in the morning and not get home till about 6 o’clock at night, my hours at work were usually an 8 to 2:30 p.m. shift. Needless to say, I lucked out where I actually was able to have a set schedule.
I would take an express bus in the morning that only ran twice a day, which was a bus designated for the housemaids at the hotels and ran off the housemaid schedule, which would leave me stranded at work for about 3 hours. Funny thing is, it would take me 3 hours in travel to get home, taking two buses and a layover downtown in the process. The three hour travel was the lesser of two evils.
The actual commute, if I was able to drive or was lucky enough to afford an Uber, is only 20 minutes down the highway.
What’s wrong with this picture here?
The one bus takes an hour and a half to make its loop from Disney to downtown, but it runs every half hour, whereas the bus I take that drops me off in neighborhood runs every hour, which results in me being stuck at the downtown bus station for a bit. 3 hours everyday of my life I would never get back.
I had to deal with buses being stuck in traffic, buses that would get lost due to drivers that don’t know the route, buses breaking down, and even overcrowding. The system here in Orlando is far from perfect and has resulted and me getting discipline and write ups for being late through no fault of my own.
Fortunately for me, my new job is only a 10-minute bus ride away or a 35 minute walk down the road. No more do I ever have to worry about whether or not I would make it to work on time.
But let’s not forget the fact that I need access to grocery stores and the like without having others help me. I enjoy being independent and without that bus paas, I wouldn’t be at all.
My opinion matters because I want to contribute to society in my own little way, but when having a disability that limits your ability to drive is a factor in keeping your independence and picking up work, it can hinder that ability in more days than one.
I understand why that man was angry that day. The system does need a bit of an overhaul to make it run as smoothly as other bus systems. And if I paid out front for my pass, which I did for almost a year before getting my free pass, I would be upset too.
If all of us who have to use the buses for one reason or another verbalize our opinions, we can instill change. Since the survey, it seems the drivers are more friendly, some pain in the rear stops have been moved to better locations, and we even have free WiFi now onboard. Clearly work is being done.
And if it weren’t for voices like mine, we wouldn’t get this far.
I may look like I’m getting something for free, but in a sense, my time and patience is what I give to the bus system everyday. It’s a much needed sacrifice for my own well being, for without it, I wouldn’t be able to survive.