Gainesville might call itself a city, but in many respects it feels like a small town. I used to know all my bus drivers by name and I'm on first name basis with a lot of them. Now there's many new routes and many more new faces- and I haven't really been ridding the bus as much since I settled Downtown. Plenty of new people extend the ramp or lift for be to board, having no idea who I am, but what's more important- if I had to guess- having little to no experience being around wheelchairs. It's needless to say that I interact with a driver to a much greater degree than somebody who just walks on and off at the press of the button. The bus has to stop for me (which sometimes in the past didn't happen and then align itself just right to get the boarding mechanism out for me. Then the driver helps me (or not) to get on when I struggle and gets into really close proximity as he or she puts the straps and hooks at various spots on my wheelchair. You may even call it personal space and they're in it for a good minute. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I prefer it when the driver doesn't openly dislike me, as so much about me getting to my destination depends on them. Over the last ten years I've dealt of course with various displays of attitude. I struggle quite a bit on the new bus models with the steep folding ramps but I get it done. But the last thing I need as I focus and I pull myself up fighting for balance is a bad reaction or a nervous look, because things like that can really throw me off. And have the power to ruin my good mood. And then, when you come to some sort of good understanding with the drivers you do have, they switch them out. And you never know who you're going to get, how they're trained and how they'll react to you. If there was ever a driver I felt like calling the supervisor about and complimenting it was the young man that drove my Sunday bus. Always courteous and helpful, making sure I was safe and comfortable. I never did it, but then I rarely if ever call to complain either. Earlier in the week I decided to get coffee when one of the transit supervisor vans pulled up. I recognized the man it it, he wanted to say hello. He also wanted to tell me to let them know if I had any problems with any of the drivers, especially after the horrific story when I was stranded between two routes for a good two hours. And I was very happy. Finally someone acknowledged an issue that I struggled with and wanted to put my mind at is. That night a backloading lift bus failed to come close enough to load me up, both times that I was on it. It's been a while since somebody decided to pull me off the sidewalk backwards to a lift that extended on the street, but I didn't mind. They're learning. They're new. Next time they'll do better. And for me, getting loaded up in the street definitely was.. different.
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