Common Sense Getting More Uncommon


While in the throes of making arrangements for an overnight hop to Chicago[1] for my granddaughter, her BFF, and me next month, I found myself scratching my head over a silly little regulation.

Because the weather is iffy in January, I don’t want to chance having my granddaughter possibly drive in ice and snow on top of heavy traffic, so we opted to take the train. (I let my driver’s license expire.)

So I called Amtrak. And got this computer named “Julie” or something like that, who could not deviate from a programmed script that only responded to specific words. “Disability” was not one of those words. Julie was hell-bent on selling me three tickets for just any old seats, despite me yelling: “Disabled! I need a ticket for a disabled person!”

Finally, something I said caused Julie to stop and think a minute, then say, “I believe I heard you say you wanted to talk to an agent.”

“Yes! Agent! I want to talk to an agent!” I choked out gleefully. And I got that most glorious thing: A real, live human being. A carbon unit.

“And what is the nature of your disability?” he asked when I said I needed special accommodations.”

“One of my legs doesn’t go all the way to the ground,” I responded.

“You’ll need a doctor’s note,” he said.

A doctor’s note? For an amputation? That isn’t exactly a hidden disability.

“Um, couldn’t I just ever-so-delicately lift the hem of my skirt up to show that my leg doesn’t go all the way to the ground?” I asked.

Nope. Had to have a note.

Now, I don’t mind getting a note from my doctor and he wouldn’t mind writing one, but really! It’s like the time he sent me for a Doppler scan to see if my leg was red and tender because of cellulitis or because of a blood clot. “If it’s a blood clot,” he said, “you’ll have to stay in the hospital overnight.”


“So they can teach you how to give yourself an injection,” he choked out between gales of laughter.

But back to Amtrak: I believe I ended up with a senior citizen’s discount.

(When I told my mother that during a phone call to wish her a happy 84th birthday, she said, “Well, THAT ought to make you feel old!”

“It should make you feel older,” I shot back.)

Whatever discount I got didn’t matter. No discount would have been fine. What I was looking for was assistance getting on and off the train, a seat I could transfer in and out of that was near a bathroom, and a place for my scooter. Those I got.

But c’mon people — use your heads. Obvious disabilities shouldn’t require a doctor’s note. Is this part of the dumbing down of America? The place where fast-food restaurants have pictures of the food on their cash registers so the workers don’t have to remember what a hamburger and fries cost? Where a person with Type 1 diabetes[2] was suspended from school for carrying glucose tablets (deemed medicine by the “intelligentsia”)?

Which brings to mind the time my husband had a pulmonary embolism and had to take injections of a blood thinner. The hospital would not release him until the folks there knew he would get the injections. Hubby didn’t wanna, so I volunteered. They made me watch a video on how to give injections. Sans popcorn, yet.

Back home, hubby allowed as how I gave better injections than the nurses.

“Heh,” I said, “they don’t practice on themselves.”

Maybe all they had to do was watch a video.

  1. overnight hop to Chicago:
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Jan Chait: Jan Chait was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in January 1986. Since then, she has run the gamut of treatments, beginning with diet and exercise. She now uses an insulin pump to help treat her diabetes. (Jan Chait is not a medical professional.)

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