I’m homeless. I also live with a progressive, drug-resistant epilepsy. Because of this, I’m allowed a permanent lifetime pass to ride the expensive UTA transit system here in Utah. This includes all trains and busses, which saves me the usual $5 ticket.
The main problem with the tickets is they expire after two hours. That means that going to work and back can cost commuters up to $10 a day, every day. Having this pass also protects me from the $300 citations that the Utah Transit Police love to hit people with if their tickets are invalid or expired, or if they are just cheating. Anyone who has used the UTA transit system in Utah knows the transit police are fairly ubiquitous. They are also well-armed and absolutely ruthless.
I wear this photo-ID permanent pass on a lanyard around my neck, in case of seizure.
One day while riding the UTA FrontRunner High-Speed commuter train, a slim, brunette woman in a freshly pressed grey business suit took a seat facing me across the aisle. She looked at me and furrowed her brow when she examined my pass and realized what it was. Clearly envious, the woman asked me how it was that I had a permanent Transit pass.
“I have epilepsy,” I said, “so the government would really rather that I not drive.”
She was quiet for a moment, but then blurted out: “that’s funny! You don’t LOOK like an epileptic!”
I found myself sitting there looking at this woman in a business suit, jealous because I had a stupid transit pass. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a little incredulous to be the subject of a judgment like that coming from an apparently healthy, fully able-bodied person. She looked to have a lot more resources available to her than an unemployed homeless man. Her jewelry looked very real and very expensive, but maybe she was just a penny-pincher by nature or was married to one.
After a brief pause, I said: “OK I’ll bite. Please tell me what an epileptic LOOKS like.”
The man next to me briefly looked up from his laptop and said: “Oh, snap!”
This elicited a few giggles from the surrounding passengers on the crowded train. The woman quickly shrank down into her seat. She clearly realized that she had fully stepped in it. She went completely flush, her face so red that it looked like you could have lit a candle with it. Immediately, I felt terrible for her. I wouldn’t wish that kind of embarrassment on anyone.
“I-I’m so sorry!” She said, “I didn’t mean… I didn’t mean.”
“Relax,” I said, “awkward happens.” I gave her a forgiving smile and she pretended to busy herself with her smartphone, quickly exiting the train at the next stop.
Looking back, I giggle at her embarrassment, although it was kind of embarrassing for me as well.
We epileptics don’t get many perks, and we must sometimes take dangerous medication with undesirable side effects. I hope that transit passes are something that every big city provides for people with potentially incapacitating conditions. Keeps us from accidentally killing people.