I had been on the Metro North railroad many times before, but this experience in particular was different. The conductor barked out the word, “Tickets!” along the aisle of the train car, followed by a click as she punched the hole in a ticket from each passenger. Soon she approached me, and as I’d just made it in time for the train before it left Grand Central, I did not have a chance to buy my ticket at the station.
“Ticket?” As I remained seated, the conductor towered over me as she stood.
“I’m going to New Haven,” I said.
“That will be 22 dollars,” the conductor said, her reply brisk, and very cold.
“Do you have disabled fare?” I asked. So was my customary way of informing those who worked at MetroNorth that I was disabled, and thus eligible for the disabled fare. “I have a physical disability.”
Even though my crutches sat beside me, it’s often nearly impossible for those lacking experience (and as you’ll see soon, common sense) to see that I was in fact disabled, just because at that very second, on that MetroNorth train, I happened to be sitting down.
“Do you have an ID that says that you are?”
All the other times I’d ridden MetroNorth, I’d never been asked for such identification. So, I said, “No.”
“Then you’re not eligible for the disabled fare. Sorry. 22 dollars.”
“I have a neurological condition. I use crutches to get around.” I could feel myself getting heated. Deep breaths, deep breaths.
“If you don’t have an ID, I can’t grant you the disabled fare. It’s 22 dollars.”
“Unbelievable,” I said, through gritted teeth. I could hear the voice in my head saying, yes, I know it’s 22 dollars. How many times are you gonna tell me?! “You know, ma’am….this really sucks.”
“It does suck,” the conductor said. “So many people say they’re disabled for the fare without any ID, and they’re lying.”
I stared at her, my eyes cold, hard, unforgiving. “Well.” I grabbed 22 dollars in cash from my wallet and handed it to her in a bundle. “…I’m not lying.”
I’d never before felt so humiliated, being challenged on such a vital, obvious part of my own identity, not to mention being called a liar, and thus questioning my character and integrity. As if I would ever stoop so low as to lie about being disabled…and when the crutches were right next to me, no less.