The transit system in our city, as I imagine in many cities, is a popular route for travel. In a world where cars are polluting our environment on a daily basis, we strive to live an environmentally friendly life and public transit is our tool. There are always peak times for transit, usually mornings (7-9 am) and evenings (3-6pm) are the busiest times, the times we call “rush hour” although there’s never any rush about it. These are the times when buses are full and seats are limited. To help stabilize the “standees” buses have several poles and handles for passengers to grip. There are a few base poles (floor to ceiling) and there are rubber handles that dangle from ceiling poles. For the blessedly tall, these ceiling poles and handles are easy to grab – for the vertically challenged, they are not within comfortable reach – and herein lies the difficulty to someone with arthritis.
Bus drivers fill their vehicles with as many passengers as they can during peak periods, and when the stream of people crowd on, we all jostle towards the back, filling in every gap, sometimes being supported by a throng of bodies; during this shuffling I am pushed away from my coveted spot at the solid pole and forced to reach overhead to grab the flexible rubber handles; for someone with arthritis, stretching the arms overhead and holding them there for any length of time can be a challenge. Tender fingers and sore shoulders suffer under the taut grip of supporting the body, keeping it upright and balanced on a moving vehicle; flexibility is compromised. On a bad day, the pain is intolerable – never mind the sudden stops that tug on the suspended arm, seemingly ripping it from its socket. This is trouble for the person with RA. Stiff rigid joints don’t have the suppleness to easily grasp and hold a rubber handle for any length of time.
I have trained in many types of dance throughout my life, but this kind of dancing is a bit beyond my reach.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.