By Victor Schwartzman
May 15, 2014
There are many Pollyannas. Today’s lives in Yellowknife (if you are reading this outside of Canada, Yellowknife is a small city in the sub-arctic north.) Our Pollyanna never fell from a tree but instead developed an ongoing disability. She can walk, but with limits, including limited energy.
Pollyanna decided one day to go swimming at the public pool. She occasionally used the pool, and swimming was good for her. Heck, even going out was an adventure. So Pollyanna said to herself, “I’m going to swim today!”
Then she said, “Can I afford it?”
On her limited income, a cab to and from the pool was a luxury. Cabs were reserved for medical appointments and buying food (for help with the groceries.) It was the end of the month, and her money was low anyway. So a cab was out.
But Pollyanna’s motto was: put your mind to the problem and find the other way.
There are two public transit services busses–in Yellowknife. The regular service pass costs $40, which is reasonable but persons with disabilities are not allowed to use a monthly bus pass, and must pay the full rate each time.. More unreasonable in Yellowknife is often the temperature. Winters are a significant part of the year in northern Canada. Most days are -20 C or worse. At that temperature, don’t let your four year old daughter kiss any iron railings because her lips will instantly freeze to the iron and you’ll have to melt her lips off the railing with warm water.
Be that as it may, going outside in Yellowknife for much of the year without a car is not advisable.
Pollyanna could not afford a car. More to the point, she could not easily walk the distance to the
bus stop. Or sometimes the distances to walk from where the bus stop left her were also difficult and Pollyanna was rather tall and not very flexible, so it was not safe for her to either walk up the stairs of a regular bus or use the outside lift.
But Pollyanna, being Pollyanna, looked for another solution, because there was always another solution.
The second public transit service available is specifically for people with disabilities, and is similar to those in other cities. There is a fee either for individual rides or monthly passes and rides must be arranged in advance.
Yellowknife is a small city of 20,000. The number of people with disabilities is significant, and the need for transportation services for people living in a subarctic climate is obvious. It also does not take long to get anywhere, so scheduling rides should not be as much of a problem as in a larger city, where rides take longer and demand may be higher.
In Yellowknife, the transportation service for people with disabilities is essentially two busses with two drivers. One driver is scheduled in a typical morning shift, the other in the afternoon.
Since only one person drives a bus at a time, one bus is always idle, limiting ride availability.
Pollyanna was used to that. Timing was the real problem. She checked the clock. Timing for a ride to the pool was never good. The best times for her were in the mid-mornings and mid-afternoons. Unfortunately, those were also the times the bus was used each day to transport students with disabilities.
Also, Pollyanna had to watch how much she used the special bus. She had to fit bus fares into her budget. So Pollyanna had to choose carefully when to call the bus.
But she still wanted to go, so she went online and checked the pool schedule again and saw that today the pool was mostly closed for public swimming. Instead, there was another public water polo exhibition. Pollyanna knew these monthly events, a spectator sport in Yellowknife. Politicians stage them, paid for by a significant budget for “public entertainment.” Extreme sports athletes are flown into Yellowknife and play water polo riding on polar bears. It is a rough Canadian sport. Pollyanna never went because the results, at times, were grizzly.
So Pollyanna could not afford a cab, could not walk to the regular bus and found it hard to schedule the accessible bus. And all of her friends were busy. And, even if she could get there, Pollyanna could not use the pool because she had to get through four heavy doors which are not fitted with openers, and she had no one to help her. This was a challenging situation for a positive person!
But Pollyanna was Pollyanna, even in Yellowknife. So she took her usual swim, and the one she could most easily schedule and best afford. She filled her bathtub.
Next: The Rules For Quiddich Polar Bear Water Polo.
Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satiric column to Accessibility News nothing in these columns is true except what they are about. His graphic novel (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also contributes a monthly poetry review to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He has had poetry and short fiction published, and has edited novels. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.