“Gorgeous. Please don’t lift that big ramp. It’s too heavy… you’ll hurt your back.”
I ignored the advice of the intoxicated, disabled woman passenger and pulled the metal wheelchair ramp out of its sleeve.
“Honey, really…I don’t need that ramp. I can wiggle my chair back and forth, and make my way off the train by myself.”
“No,” I said. “There’s a big gap between the train and the platform. You might hurt yourself.”
She spun her chair around and demonstrated her chair wiggling ability. It was then that I saw, for the first time, she was missing both of her legs.
“Sweetie, I see how hard you conductors work, walking up and down that aisle all day long. You have a hard job. You don’t need to be waiting on a girl like me.”
“Really, it’s no bother.” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Whenever I see somebody in a wheelchair, I can’t help but wonder how they got there. Was there an accident? Illness? Disease? Birth defect? I didn't dare ask my new friend what happpened, but I tried to figure it out. She appeared to be about 50 years old, but she may have been younger. Her brown hair was unkempt and her skin was pale white. She was missing several teeth, and the few left dangling were yellow and rotting. My guess is that she probably suffers from drug-induced diabetes, which most likely led to both of her legs being amputated.
“Darlin’, you do work hard, and believe me, I know somethin’ about hard work. You see, I have this friend…and he knows men who like to get with women like me. Anyway, when these men pay, I split the money with my friend... It’s usually something like $40 for me and $40 for him.”
She said this so casually, with no trace of shame or modesty. She could have just as easily been talking about her job at Stop & Shop or Walmart.
“These young girls today…they don’t know how to please a customer. They just go into a guy’s car, take his money, but they don’t (get the job done.)”
My friend was getting kind of loud now, and the passengers seated around the vestibule could hear her candid confessions.
She shook her head and said, “It’s just not right to leave a customer unsatisfied.”
I didn’t know quite how to respond to this last statement, so I finally said something stupid like, “Yeah, I guess every profession has its slackers.”
Thankfully, the woman’s station arrived, and against her protest, I laid the wheel chair ramp down over the gap and she rolled herself off the train and onto the platform.
“Gorgeous," She called out, "You forgot to take my ticket.”
“I’ll catch you next time,” I said, and I stepped back on the train.
As the doors closed, I noticed that several of the passengers were shaking their heads and laughing.
“Hey!” I said. “At least she said I was gorgeous.”
I slid the ramp back into its sleeve, secure in the knowledge that my new friend and I, both know how to give good customer service.