I Am Her Job


Continuation of letter to Centro Operations Director:

I repeatedly asked [the call-taker in Centro Operations] for the information [about when my ride would arrive].  She refused to give it, repeatedly demanding to know if I wanted to cancel.  I said, “I’ve already waited forty-five minutes.  I cannot wait another forty-five minutes.  I need to know how long it will take before I can decide whether or not to cancel.”  The woman’s response to this reasonable statement was to hang up on me.

When the driver arrived—deeply apologetic for his lateness—he said that he’d misread his schedule.  If the Operations person had called him when I first called her, it would have gotten him back on schedule.  Also, it would have prevented the rest of the problems from arising.  When she finally did call him, he told her it would take him ten minutes to get to me.  She knew, and refused to give me the information.

CENTRO is a service industry, and I pay my fare when I board the bus.  Your employees certainly should treat their customers with courtesy and respect.  I refuse to be treated as if I am an impediment to her job:  I am her job.  This employee seems to think that she is not accountable for her actions.  I am asking you to hold her accountable.

I trust you will speak to the employee in question.  It would be healing if she would send me an apology.

Sincerely,

There was, of course, neither a reply nor an apology.

On November 5, 2004, I wrote to a contact I’d developed at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Northeast Center at Cornell University:

Dear Richard,

            It appears that Linda McKeown has set up a two-tiered paratransit system, which, as I understand it, is against the law.  Would you call me at your convenience to discuss it?  I will be attending a meeting of the Public Transportation Advisory Committee at ARISE this Friday afternoon, and it would be helpful to speak to you before then.

            Communication with Call-A-Bus is made staggeringly difficult by the personnel’s inability to speak in simple sentences.  I have received another letter from Call-a-Bus that states:

“Based upon our review of your application for certification of ADA pratransit service are as follows:  Unable, due to impairment related condition which would prevent you from traveling to or from a Centro Bus Stop.”  [Totally sic.]

If you any idea what that means, please give me a clue.

Sincerely,

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Post-Standard on December 27, which, of course, was not published:

To the Editor:

Will somebody please explain to me why I couldn’t see the Christmas trees at the Everson Museum?

            I called Call-a-Bus and requested a pickup in East Syracuse to arrive at the Everson at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.  In order to get a ride, the rider has to call Call-a-Bus between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to confirm.  That day, I couldn’t make the call.

My home health aide schedule got all screwed up, and I was out at an appointment.  When the doctor has just said, “I’ll order x-rays; you may have a tumor on your spine,” you don’t think to say, “Doc, can I borrow your cell phone to call Call-a-Bus?”

People who drive a car can go out and stick the keys in the ignition anytime.  If you ride a line bus, you can call Centro to get the schedules all day and half the night.  If you are forced by disability to use Call-a-Bus, you get a two-hour window once a day to get your schedule.  And, no, Operations will not tell you what time your ride is coming.  Operations knows—they have the drivers’ schedules—but they will not tell you.  They tell you that you’ll just have to be ready and wait.

            Several days prior to this, I called Call-a-Bus and requested a pickup in East Syracuse to arrive at Catholic Charities on Onondaga Blvd. at 1:00 p.m.  They scheduled me for a pickup at 10:10 a.m.!  Shall I get ready and go sit in the lobby of my apartment building for three hours?

            The week before, I requested a pickup to arrive at ARISE at 1:00 p.m. for a support meeting.  I asked for a 2:30 p.m. return.  It is a fifteen-minute ride from my home to ARISE.  Call-a-Bus scheduled me for a 10:35 a.m. pickup and a 3:40 p.m. return.  Call-a-Bus turned a two-hour trip into an impossible five hours!  I can do three hours.  On a good day, I can do four hours.  I do not have the stamina to stay out for five hours, so I had to cancel and stay home.

I have placed five ride orders in ten days.  I have had to cancel four of them because the scheduling was impossible.  The one ride I took included a return pickup at 11:05 a.m. and a drop-off at 12:25 p.m.—one hour and twenty minutes on the bus to make the twenty-minute trip from the Valley to East Syracuse!  If an able person had taken line buses and transferred, the trip would only have taken 55 minutes.  Why are the disabled being subjected to worse stresses than those with normal good health?

            I am not one to complain incessantly.  I complain up to a point, and then I take action.  Among other things, I am on the Public Transportation Advisory Committee at ARISE.  I asked Call-a-Bus to get me to the meeting by 12:30 p.m. and do a return pickup at 2:30 p.m.  They ordered a 10:15 a.m. pickup and 3:05 p.m. return—another five-hour trip!  I couldn’t get transportation to the transportation meeting.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, disability rights, Government Services, Onondaga County, Poverty, Power, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness, Values and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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