Cane walking (part two – public transport)

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Travelling by public transport while using a cane is quite an ordeal here in The Netherlands. To get into a tram, bus or train I have to hoist myself into the carriage, as there’s usually steps. More often then not this hoisting is preceded by a jump, as the platform and the carriage do not line up. Arrived at my destination, I then have to find a way to get out of the vehicle. This “getting out of the carriage”-motion can only be described as “ejecting”: I have to throw myself out and hope that I manage to land safely on my “good” leg, at the risk of breaking said leg, my cane and/or landing face forward onto the pavement/bike path/road. Back in my competitive figure skating days, I could have never foreseen that those years of training would ever come in handy in a completely different setting, but they do.

Seeing that getting in and out of carriages is a nightmare, changing vehicles or modes of transportation is pure hell. After ejecting myself out of the bus/tram/train, I need to first fight my way through the people blocking the exit. For the non-Dutch: this is a Dutch thing. The people who want to get on the vehicle, all huddle together right in front of the exit, despite it being obvious that there’s people who need to get out first. I know, it makes no sense, but they almost all do it. I’ll make a short documentary about it one day. So yeah, after fighting my way through the huddle, I have to barge through a herd of people who are in a hurry to catch their connection. In the mean time, I have to hope/furiously check if the vehicle I need to change to hasn’t changed platforms. Having found my new tram/bus/train, I again have to hoist myself inside, and hope there’s a place where I can sit. On the train, the designated seats for the elderly/handicapped are wonderful, but on the bus they’re often really high up, forcing me to hoist and jump again. The person who designed these allocated seats has clearly never thought about the physical state of the people who need them.

Another reason why changing vehicles is hell, is that I often miss my connection. I am unable to eject myself from one train, then limp my way from platform 20 to platform 3 and then hoist myself into another train in 6 minutes. Which means that I have to leave home earlier and that my journey takes longer. A lot longer: where cane-less I usually get from a particular A to a particular B in 50 minutes, with my cane it takes me 1 1/2 hours. Times two, this amounts to 3 hours of travel instead of my usual 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s exhausting. And this is when all goes well. I haven’t counted the times I had to cripple myself up and down stairs while crying in pain because of elevators that were “Out of order”, making me then miss yet another connection, making my journey even longer.

On the other hand, I must admit that most people were very friendly and helpful as soon as they saw that I was using a cane. In the entire period there was only 1 asshole who almost body checked me off the escalator with her bag. Everybody else was super nice: people gave up their seat, asked the bus driver to wait for me, carried my bag or held the door for me. Also, the cane proved a great conversation starter: I have never had so many interactions with strangers in public. Some people just said “Great cane!”, others cautiously inquired about “the leg”. One lady told me her sister had the exact same cane, and a gentleman of around my age told me the story of his paralysed arm.

Despite my aversion to the whole “Suffering is a learning experience!” way of thinking, I must admit that this experience has given me insights that I didn’t have before. Sure, I knew that walking around in this world is a lot harder when you have mobility issues and that there’s still a lot that can and should be done to make this easier, but I had severely underestimated the extend of it. The fact that I, with what in the grand scheme of things is a temporary, minor injury, have had SO MUCH TROUBLE getting from A to B, means that there is a truly HUGE group of people who are currently shut off from (travelling by themselves by) public transport, which is effectively shutting them off from a part of society. And that is, again, most definitely Not Ok.

Here are some links to Dutch organisations who are working hard to change this:

Cane walking (part one)

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In an attempt to accelerate the recovery of my achilles tendon injury, I underwent two Shockwave treatments; one in November and one in January. After each of those treatments, I was not allowed to walk for two days. For the 12 days after that, I was advised to “walk as little as possible, and as slowly as possible”. Knowing myself, I knew I had to find an external tool to keep myself from disregarding all pain and barge up and down the large Jan Schaefferbridge at the end of my street, to then do an aerobics video in my living room. File under: how I acquired this particular injury.

Inspired by a Hannah Witton video, I decided to buy a foldable walking stick that fit inside my purse. On a side note: there must be a difference between a cane and a walking stick, but I haven’t been able to figure it out and will therefore use both words when referring to the same thing. Anyway, this walking stick would both be supporting me and making sure I couldn’t walk faster than I should, but it would also signal to the outside world “I have difficulty walking, please don’t rush me”. Because The Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular is a stressed out mess.

Having lived here for the majority of my life, I am well aware of this fact, but I must say that every time I (due to illness or injury) am not able to keep up with the pace, it’s a shock. Amsterdam’s public space in particular is completely unsuited for anyone who has even a small mobility issue, let alone a large one. There’s bikes everywhere, curbs are often ridiculously high, elevators and escalators are regularly either broken or blocked by (you guessed it!) bikes, the traffic situation is often completely unclear. On top of that, most if not all Amsterdam pavements are wonky and far from smooth. I have been told that this is due to ground water level shifts and not because we are bad at laying pavements.

What also doesn’t help, are the almost constant renovations and works in various areas of the city. And of course the fact that after all this, a huge amount of tourists and a huge amount of people actually living here who are trying to get to work are thrown into the mix.

The resulting situation can only be described as “a complete mess”. Amsterdam has clearly become a city for young, healthy people, and I’m quite sure that I don’t have to explain to you why this is Not Ok.

This Month – February

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Read – Online

Sure, blame the homeless: How the Homeless Ended Up Being Blamed for Typhus..

Let Me Tell You About My Friend Maria Butina — Who Might Be A Russian Spy.

YouTube Unleashed a Conspiracy Theory Boom. Can It Be Contained?.

Use the KonMari Method to Tidy Your Mind

Food for thought: The Best Skin-Care Trick Is Being Rich.

Karl Lagerfeld passed away. And despite – as a teen – being super impressed with his work ethos, his creativity and the fact that my favorite perfume ever (Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld, the discontinued 1975 edition) was released under his label, I can nowadays only agree with this article: Stop mourning oppressors: anti-condolences for Karl Lagerfeld.

Can a Night Owl Become a Morning Person? From personal experience: no. You can force yourself, with a lot of effort, misery and exhaustion, to become a little less of a night owl, but the best thing to do is to “just” find a career in which you don’t have to get up at 6 am. I really feel there should be more focus on this in high school during future career events.

The Rare and Stunning “Firefall” Returns to Yosemite National Park.

Beatles vs Monkees is now 2 – 2: Monkee Peter Tork has passed away.

Music writer Laura Snapes on her experiences: The Ryan Adams allegations are the tip of an indie-music iceberg,

For those who thought Jeffree Star was the only Myspace fossil who lives for drama still relevant today, check out Audrey Kitching’s fraudulent business.

Listened to – Music

Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like a Heart

Older, but new to me: On my mind van Ellie Goulding, structurally as perfect of a pop song as you can get.

Gerard Way & Ray Toro cover Happy Together and Hazy shade of winter

Mark Hollis of Talk Talk also passed away this month. While muso’s consider the later albums to be the absolute masterpieces, I have alway preferred the It’s my life album. I’d say it’s probably even one of my top 5 albums ever.

Listened to – Podcasts

I hate it but I love it: the episodes about Almost Famous and Titanic

Watched – Films and Documentaries

The radical story of Patty Hearst. I don’t know about this one. Of course, the horrors transpired are atrocious and should definitely not be swept aside, but I have a very hard time listening to all the people in this documentary who very firmly claim to know exactly who she was, what she was thinking and why she did things in a certain way, and who seem to have little to no knowledge, let alone regard for the ways in which trauma affects a person.

Tipped by Esmee: Basquiat – Rage to Riches.

Het wonder van Le Petit Prince, about how translators use translating Le Petit Prince as a way to save their endangered languages. Available on Picl.

Watched – TV and Youtube

Cremeclouds‘ room deco + journalling video

Minnie Small’s Favourite YouTube Channels, New Art Books, Supplies + More

A Ballerina’s Entire Routine, From Waking Up to Showtime

Making a mini zine (from start to finish)

Songwriters roundtable with Kesha, Dianne Warren, Tim McGraw, Mark Ronson, Boots Riley, Jack Antonoff, en David Crosby

George faked going on holiday for a week. Funny, but it also shows how easily you can be manipulated into believing things that are not real.

Miscellaneous awesomeness

Is it too much for me to ask for the Umbrella Academy umbrella to be sold again, now that Netflix has finally turned the books into a series? Please?

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