Last Thursday, I boarded a southbound Amtrak train from Oakland to San Diego early in the morning for a getaway I’d been looking forward to for a while–a long ride down most of the length of the state, a relatively unplanned couple of days, and a long ride back, with not much else to do except read, write, knit, nibble on delicious snacks, and snuggle my sweetie. The train ride was just as important as the destination, and I had the added glee of knowing that my next blog post would allow me to write about the very thing I was doing in that moment—actively seeking joy. Everything leading up to our departure went smoothly and according to schedule, in contrast to the hustle and bustle of our daily work grind leading up to the needed getaway. I will say a little leak in my joy bubble occurred when I discovered that, after agonizing over a new yarn project to bring with me since I didn’t have one in progress, when I settled into the train and discovered that I picked a project and yarn, and had totally neglected to pack the loom into my project bag. I laughed, it was only a very minor joy detractor—I would have plenty to do on this trip and had crochet hooks and yarn to practice my single crochet with.
Somewhere near San Luis Obispo, where the train turns out to the coast, I completed a post I was extremely happy with that detailed why I chose this item for my 19 for 2019 list, following the trail of influencers from my best friend and former boss, to Gretchen Rubin, to Ingrid Fetell Lee, and even outlining many of the other related books I’ve read or started this year on the topics of joy, happiness, self-compassion, and even just topics that bring me joy, like foodie books. I was happy with the flow and language and had links to noteworthy items. I decided to put it down and nibble some chicken wings while I digested my post and could come back for one more read before releasing it into the world and to let my phone charge while I was at it.
Wings devoured, I turned back to my phone, where I’d been composing. Still not quite fully charged, and I’m just over a week into owning a much newer model iPhone and still haven’t reckoned with the new lack of headphone jack, and so far, I hadn’t needed to. So I leaned awkwardly across my husband’s lap to use my phone while still charging, and not connected to headphones. My rule of thumb, especially as a screenreader user, is headphones—it’s just common courtesy regardless of disability. I was anxious to release this new post and opted to use my phone in this awkward position, just until my battery topped off, which shouldn’t have been too long. Though I leaned in awkwardly to minimize the volume, it wasn’t long before the fellow sitting across the aisle from me interjected suddenly, “Excuse me,” he said curtly, “could you turn that off, please?” I don’t honestly remember if he said please, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. My hackles went up immediately—not a request to turn it down, or to use headphones, certainly not even any softening with any supporting information to his demand. What an asshole. I took a deep breath. His request was not entirely unreasonable, he was really just being a douchebag about it. “I’ll plug in some headphones in just a few minutes,” I assured him and he went back to reading his book. Hm, he sure didn’t seem to mind the movie that was audible from about three rows ahead of us. Not ten minutes or so later, he was urgently pestering me again, with a more demanding tone. “Excuse me,” he repeated at a low shout until I acknowledged him. “You said you were going to plug in headphones,” he said like a snotty spoiled brat. Adrenaline surged, and deep breathing barely kept me from losing my shit. With a thin veneer of restraint, I calmly explained that my phone was charging and I wasn’t able to plug in headphones and that the noises my phone was making was about accessibility and I hardly thought he’d be ok with me requesting that he just throw a blanket over the book he was reading. Frustrated and angry, I yanked my phone from the charger so I could put in headphones. The rest of the ride to Los Angeles was a little tense, and worst of all, I allowed this dickhead to completely steal my joy. He did get up and go away for a while, and I choose to believe it’s because he was also annoyed by the clicking of my fingers on the wireless keyboard I was using thereafter.
To add insult to injury, mere moments after this exchange, I hit publish on my blog post about actively seeking joy that I wrote precisely while I was actively seeking joy, and it vaporized to some kind of WordPress saving error, irretrievable and never to be seen again. Now my joy bubble was completely burst. So now I’m simultaneously processing the loss of written work I’d just put time, energy, and love into, and some bullshit ablist microaggression.
Putting aside the defeat of my joy momentarily, this guy sucked all the joy out of my room not by his desire to silence my device, he did it in the how. I’m on board with headphones as a courtesy to those around you in public spaces.This happened to be one of those rare instances where it was logistically awkward. I was doing it not out of disrespect or disregard for those around me; I was doing it as a stop gap measure to get something done and didn’t intend to do it for very long. Mr. Ablist Cranky Pants approach was the truly problematic part of this, and sadly, he has had these kinds of norms so drilled into him, he was likely not aware of his bias. I can only speak to my perspective of the experience, and here is what my experience has taught me—anyone who uses a screen reader to access computers and electronic devices has heard, and many folks who hear one for the first time may have said, “Ugh, that’s so annoying, how can you stand it?” Synthesized speech, to the uninitiated, can sound jarring and difficult to understand, and seeking to remain as polite as possible, my response is usually to observe that not being able to read is significantly more annoying. The movie playing loudly several rows ahead of us was a familiar and explainable noise that he has probably been conditioned to tune out, as was the equally loud music coming from the same area just before we arrived in LA, which he also had no obvious beef with. Synthesized speech, howev er, was unfamiliar and jarring, and therefore, put him out of his comfort zone, so whether he realized that this noise was accessibility for a disabled person or not, he wanted the discomfort to stop and had no concern for my needs or feelings. Well, sorry-not-sorry that my disability is causing you discomfort. Consider, just for a moment, your life as a blind person and what that access might mean. What is grating noise to you, sir, is literacy, freedom, and independence to me, and you’d be wise to consider what your life will be like when you start losing your freedoms and independence, because 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, so if it’s not you now, it is someone you know, and it will be you in the future, if not due to illness or injury, then simply to aging. Consider that we do not all move through the world in the same way and we are all having unique human experiences that are no more or less valuable than yours.
Also, this is a post about joy, and the joy bubble I was floating in was challenged that day in a way that opened up opportunities to increase my active pursuit of joy. I was determined to move past the shadow cast by the double whammy of an asshole on a train and a technology glitch that set back my blogging goals. I took many deep breaths, let go of the lost blog post and even put away the anxiety of deciding what to do about it. I focused on Facebooking and ignoring Mr. Ablist Cranky Pants until we got to LA, for even though I knew they were transferring to the same train there, the chances of us being in the same car, let alone same row, on the San Diego bound leg of our journey, was small to none, and my decision was to actively seek joy for the next several days of this getaway. I dove head first into reconnecting with family, wandering the Gaslamp Quarter, savoring food, drink, environs, long drives, quirky sightseeing, and most of all, spending precious quality time with my partner in adventures, best friend, and husband. I didn’t really think about my blog until today, even though my goal was to recap all 19 of my 2019 list before tomorrow and post my 20 for 2020 on New Year’s Day. Who knows? Maybe I’ll spam you and still get the job done. When my northbound train turned from Oxnard and started heading for the coast, I actively chose to stop thinking and writing about joy-stealing assholes in favor of breaking out the wine and chocolate and staring out the window at the beautiful ocean views with my love. Still, this post is coming to a close, and we’re only rounding Point Conception. I’ll draft in the Notes app from now on to avoid losing precious material like before, and data signal willing between here and Oakland, perhaps I can squeeze out another post or two and make up for lost time.
Actively seeking joy is definitely not something you stop doing once it’s checked off a list, though I’m feeling pretty happy with my habits here and don’t think rolling it over to next year’s list will be necessary.
Next, I’ll consider latent fears about agoraphobia, and only 4 posts to crank out between now and New Year’s Day, so as I think my theme for 2020 is going to be, I got this.