Melbourne Tram

Chronic Conditions and Public Transport

Public transport can be challenging for perfectly healthy people. For those of us with invisible illnesses, it can be a nightmare.

Today, for the second time, I had a spat on a packed tram.

Melbourne is host to the Grand Prix this weekend. I happen to live AND work close enough to the event to experience complete transport disruption! Driving to work is just not an option: I discovered THAT on Wednesday when it took me forty minutes to travel about one kilometre.

I think many other people had the same experience, so they ALL decide to jump on public transport for the two weeks the roads are hell.

This morning I let two trams go because there was just no room. The third tram I managed to squeeze on. Normally I have no hesitation in asking for one of the “special needs” seats, but today the tram was SO packed even that seemed too hard! I decided I’d just cling on for dear life and hope the tram didn’t jolt too much.

About two stops further along, two more people tried to get in the door I was standing directly in front of. One was a particularly assertive male, probably running late for work, who was so insistent I move forward (where I was to move TO I have no idea) that he gave me a decent shove in the back to encourage me to make room for him. While I do not like being shoved, my back likes it even less – and complains bitterly. I told him in no uncertain terms I was not moving. “I have a bad back and there is no room for me to move anyway”, I said. After all, HE was the one trying to fit onto an already obviously overloaded tram. I suggested maybe he wait for the next tram.

His response? If I have a bad back, I shouldn’t be on the tram! I was so very close to simply pushing him off the tram. He causes me pain and then suggests I shouldn’t be on the tram because I have a bad back? He had no idea whether I was going to work or a medical appointment, whether I was able to drive a car or not (maybe public transport was my only option). Yet he was clearly WAY more important, in his mind, than my (or anyone else’s) well-being.

Apart from the fact he was simply a rude, aggressive person, he had no hesitation in shoving a stranger in the back to try to force that person (me) to move. That is actually not safe behaviour. I am fine, but another person may not have been. I’m pretty fit and healthy these days, even so certain things still cause me pain. Being shoved in the back is one of those things. I know some people who would have suffered way more than I did and for much longer.

On the previous occasion this happened to me, the very bossy, aggressive person was a woman who I DID actually push off the tram! I didn’t mean to, but she pushed me so hard and it hurt so much I instinctively pushed back, she lost her balance and fell back out of the tram.

Just because we have invisible illnesses we can’t travel at off-peak times. Is this man suggesting I just give up working, give up being a productive member of society? Oh, I can just see the Department of Human Services granting me a Disability Pension on the basis I can’t travel to work because rude people shove me in the back! Yep, that’s a winner, right there! There is a very good chance he is also the sort of person who claims anyone on a pension of any sort is a malingerer – yet he doesn’t want to make a small adjustment in his day (an adjustment he should have planned for given the state of today’s trams was not a new situation) to accommodate anyone else. Clearly I should just take my damaged spine elsewhere and let him take my place on the tram.

Yes, I am venting. I am venting for all the other people in similar circumstances. As a society it behoves all of us to treat each other with care and respect. We never know what challenges any individual is dealing with and we should NOT assume the person we are about to shove in the back is as healthy as we are.

Rant over.