Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The pen is mightier than the Transit Service!

Hello, my friends...
I have been ruminating over my recent selection of blog-worthy fodder. What should I post? What is my motivation for choosing to write on what I do? Is my aim to be impactful, funny or to use my blog as a medium for social consciousness and activism?

Like choosing doughnuts for a party pack: doughnuts are good no matter what they're sprinkled, stuffed or glazed with. Right? You'd think so. But it turns out that not all doughnuts are created equal. Some taste better than others. Some look pretty in the display case, but taste bad in your mouth (you'll recall the 'sour cream chocolate glaze'). Others, they taste so good, you'll happily eat one every morning. Then suddenly, there's a new flavour introduction, and the doughnut romance is on the outs.

Isn't it interesting? We fall so madly in love with the new and interesting so quickly, and just as quickly we fall out of love. Newer and faster; bigger and better. A taste sensation that will blow your mind and change your life. Funny, but all this pastry talk reminds me of politics.

Politicians: pick me! Pick me! I am better than the other guy! I look better than the other guy! I talk better than the other guy; I do more, spend less, and you get more for your money. Like a Timbit 10-pack for $1.99. How's that for political participation? I look at the people chosen to represent me and see a discount box of doughnut run-offs.

You might wonder what it is that I am getting at. Doughnuts and politicians. Well, here's the thing: one day after eating doughnuts every morning with your Orange Mocha Frappuccino, you discover biscotti. There are other options. They are part of the pastry family, but they walk the walk and talk the talk.

Last Friday, I discovered biscotti, in the form of Ms. Kathleen Wynne. After purchasing my Frangelico for hazelnut pots des cremes, we walked past Ms. Wynne en route home. I recalled my letter to the now infamous Regional Transit Company that shall remain nameless.

I copied that letter to every Member of Parliament and Member of Provincial Parliament in my local riding (not to mention every media outlet that I could think of, the Prime Minister and the Human Rights Commission), hoping to get some kind of resoultion and recognition for what I felt was an affront to my right to dignity and fully realized personhood.

It turns out that Ms. Wynne is also the Minister of Transportation (how's that for efficiency; killing two birds with one stone?). She got two copies of the letter (so I guess it wasn't that effective). I showed that letter to everyone. I wanted everyone to know what had happened to me; moreover, that it had happened and I was not taking this lying down. I would use the tools at my disposal to take a stand. For me and for everyone else who had endured being subjected to judgements based on the values of others.

People laughed (Yes. They laughed). They told me that I was wasting my time; all this letter writing was taking away from the beauty and joy of my life. I could make better choices for my spirit and sense of self by sloughing it off and chalking it up to the stupidity of others. But I was like a dog with a bone. I couldn't let this go.

I sent it. And I waited. And I waited some more.

And then it came: 'I have been in contact with the company. It is my position that the matter has been resolved satisfactorily. No further intervention from this office is required'. Or something like that. I was crushed. It seemed no one wanted to stand up and say that it was not okay to say that disabled people are a waste of space.

I left it alone. I thought maybe those people were right. My letter accomplished nothing.

Fast forward to election time. Rob Oliphant came to my door. He asked for my vote.

I told him that he would under no circumstances, get my vote. He seemed incredulous. I explained about The Letter and that I'd not received a response, even a perfunctory one. I showed him a copy. He said he'd never seen it (now it was my turn for incredulity: I knew enough about the letter writing process to know that MP's are legally bound to respond, even if it's perfunctory) I was very clear about my position: how can I support your candidacy or your positions if you aren't aware of mine?

I closed the door in his face. I admit it wasn't the most lady-like thing I could have done. I will also admit that I felt completely justified, maybe even a little vindicated.

I rejoiced in it! My belief in the power of the written word was renewed (even if only marginally)! Constituents have power! What we do and what we say means something. To some, it appears only as a drop in the bucket. To me, it was a VICTORY!

Fast forward again to pots des cremes. There she was, there in the mall. And I was conflicted: should I say something to her or should I just let it die (already!)?

The stand up and fighter in me said 'no way'. So, I talked to her. It went something like this. This is not, by any means, a verbatim relay.

ME: Hi. My name is Little Miss Sunshine and I am a voter in your riding. I wanted to talk to you about my letter. A letter that I sent to you about a year ago.
MINISTER: I'm sorry. What letter? You'll have to remind me.
ME: I wrote you a letter about Regional Transit Company.  I was abused, degraded and humiliated on a public vehicle. I sent you a letter. I asked you for your understanding.
ME: I wanted to tell you that I was really disappointed by your response.
MINISTER: What was my response?
ME: You sent me a response saying that you thought they had done enough. Did they tell you what their solution was?
ME: It was the cost of my ticket. $6. I felt like you were telling me that my dignity was worth only $6. I know you as an MP, and I know about the things that you stand for and the efforts that you have made on behalf of this community; I was expecting more. I felt let down.

We spoke for about 30 minutes. She apologized many times over (which I really didn't think was necessary). She also explained to me that she signs all of her letters personally (which apparently is not de riguer. I knew this.) We talked about some of the realities facing disabled travelers who chose not to employ parallel transportation options. That, in spite of millions of dollars in funding and retrofitting, accessibility is differently defined by those who are disabled and those who are not.

I told her about what happened with Mr. Oliphant. How I felt so empowered in doing what I had done.  My feelings of empowerment had been reinforced by this conversation,  being able to confront my disappointment and having it openly and respectfully acknowleged.

She encouraged me to continue my letter writing; that it is not futile. She looked me in the eye and shook my hand. I haven't felt that tall in a long time.

Good night, lovelies....xo