A Setback

8 Aug

by Andrea Kelton

Panhandlers on the “L”* raise my ire, not my compassion. One guy I encounter on the northbound Brown Line performs his tale of woe several afternoons a week. He sticks to his script. A few more rides on that train this week and I’ll hear it repeated so many times that I’ll be able to recite right along with him.

Yesterday, shortly after the south bound Red Line left Fullerton, a new voice interrupted my ride. “Good morning.” “My name is Darrell. I don’t mean to bother you, but could you spare a little change so I can get something to eat today?” As he moved through the car, his tone turned pathetic.   “Oh. Sorry. Excuse me. Is there something in my way?” He shuffled by and I saw his white cane. His rigid body moved through the El car like Frankenstein’s monster.

My blood pressure skyrocketed.

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the ADA. I’ve worked hard for more than forty years to adjust and adapt to my gradual, progressive vision loss and educate the folks that I may not be able to see well, but I am still very competent and quite capable. And here’s this guy (was he really blind?) playing up every blind stereotype gripping the sighted world with fear and sympathy.

Darrell was lucky that I was seated next to the window with people standing in front of me. If I’d been able to get hold of him, I’d either given him a piece of my mind or a whack with MY white cane for reversing our progress.

**The “L” is short for Loop, which is the elevated train system that loops around the original downtown area of Chicago, Illinois.

Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974. Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago. She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.

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