Next station is

Nicole  Smith
Train travel is often the best way for me to get around Melbourne. With practice I am becoming more confident travelling further from home. Using an electric wheelchair means I am noticed in the crowd. Some people on public transport think it's okay to talk to me and offer advice because I use a wheelchair. I have had people quote words from the Bible. Others think they can use the bar at the back of my wheelchair to rest on. I don't mind when children ask me questions. Sometimes I have interesting conversations. But I usually like to be left alone.
Posted by: 
Nicole Smith on 04/07/2012
A footbridge view of Fairfield train station. A train is pulling into one of the two platforms.

I am more confident travelling to the city.

The very definition of public transport means that while catching the train one will encounter a vast array of people from different backgrounds. I live within walking distance of the station so I caught the train home from secondary school on average three times a week. Now with practice I am more confident travelling into the city and exploring new places.

But using an electric wheelchair means I draw attention in a crowd. On trains this often manifests itself by people feeling the need to approach me and offer their comments, support and condolences. I like to think of myself as friendly but would prefer to be left alone. I already feel vulnerable being alone in that environment without having to converse with strangers.

Being healed

I am perfectly happy and do not require healing, but sometimes worry I must give off a suffering vibe for I have had people quote me Bible passages and comment that they will light a candle for me at church.

Although their intentions are well meaning, if I do decide to engage in religious practices it will be my choice. An ability by them to recite the Bible verbatim will not convince me. Others have held my hand and even parked their car, walked over and started encouraging me to speak to my friend Jesus, which is especially unnecessary while I have a flat battery.

Please ask

Sometimes I am stopped, perhaps waiting for a break in the crowd and people assume I am stuck and try to push my electric wheelchair. This startles me and just causes my wheelchair to jolt. Other times I am content sitting where I am and people, assuming I cannot speak for myself, ask others to move out of my way. They simply point to my wheelchair and walk away. I would prefer not to be the center of attention. I get enough of that involuntarily and it can be embarrassing.

Memorable moments

Once a woman at the station started yelling about respect and swearing profusely at my schoolmates when I was in fact just waiting for a friend. She then proceeded to tell me about her experiences of being in a wheelchair including her sexual assault.

If someone boards the train on a scooter or another wheelchair, I am happy to move. It is probably easier than having people insist they are fine with where I am but then crash into me repeatedly. Also, although the bar at the back of my wheelchair protrudes a little it is not a public resting place. It is part of my wheelchair and therefore part of me so it feels odd when people use it as a public handrail.

I don't think parents need to reprimand children for staring, for I don't mind answering questions and it is natural to be curious.

I also once had a man who insisted I went to a special school with his grandson who had a disability. When I explained I went to a mainstream all-girl's school, he became insistent and kept repeating his grandson's name.

I've heard it before

Finally, speedy gonzalez and wow, that thing's powerful are not original phrases. I have heard them many times before. Sometimes though, these can initiate an interesting dialogue, the type that rarely occurs outside of travelling on public transport.

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