Chaucer, Joanna, and Access-A-Ride

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It’s been four years, four months, and a gazillion two trains and a boat, and my knees have finally had it.

When the paper moved from its Sheepshead Bay office in March of 2009, everyone in my family asked, “How are you going to do the commute?” My reply was always the same: “Two trains and a boat.”

And that’s the way it’s been. However, now that the MTA is closing the Montague Street tunnel for repairs (it links Manhattan to Brooklyn via the R train), my commute is going to change.

However, four years, four months, and a gazillion trains steps has wrought havoc upon my poor knee joints and recently I had to apply for Access-A-Ride.

Two weeks ago I went for my appointment.

The office was on the second floor with a rather sorrowful looking elevator, but the alternative was steps, so I stepped in, said a prayer, and rode to the second floor.

Now I need to interject two items: I don’t like the heat, and I like elevators even less. With that said, that day was hotter than Hades in August and the elevator was as rinky-dink as you can get. But in I went, and up I rose.

No sooner did my feet step off the lift and I walked down the hallway, did the lights go out and the building pitched into a blackness. Oh, and did I mention it was hot? Anyway, I proceeded to the office where I found several people who were also waiting for assessments, and found a seat.

I felt like the narrator in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” as I listened to the motley crew (me included) of travelers in a blacked-out office with no way down, telling their tales of woe and need for Access-A-Ride.

A lady in a wheelchair, a man with a knee brace and cane, another gentlemen who was limping, a couple who couldn’t maneuver stairs, and myself, lame in both knees, all waited to be seen and assessed.

The nurse announced that due to the circumstances it would be impossible for her to give formal assessments to us all, but she would do the mechanical part (checking to see if you could walk up or down the mock train and bus stairs there in the office) and get us out as soon as possible. My turn came and she asked me to walk up the stairs.

I tried my best, but the three steps proved to be a bit much, and as I tried to manage all of them she turned to me and said, “I’ve seen enough, you can come down.” At which point I replied, “Easier said than done.” I also asked her how I was going to get down to the street level. She replied, “You can walk or you can wait, your choice.”

I decided to walk. However, going down that long stairway in the dark was not easy, and I found myself crab walking, and crawling down backwards.

Not for Nuthin™, but how do you place an assessment office on the second floor of anywhere when you have people who can’t do steps, or are in wheelchairs? Only the city knows for sure.

Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.

Joanna DelBuono writes about national issues — and public transportation — every Wednesday on E-mail her at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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