The man from Dutch Railways (NS) had actually grabbed and stopped my tricycle and walked around to stand in front of me. My front wheel was between his feet, so I couldn’t turn away. He looked at me and said: “I could take you from your tricycle easily if I wanted to.” I was perplexed. Was this guy actually threatening me?! “yes, that’d be easy,” I said, “because my left arm and leg are paralysed.” My response did not have the effect I had hoped for. He smiled at me and said: “can you prove that?”
Because of my disability I use a tricycle to get around. Inside buildings, and even inside shops, when I have to walk a long distance, I cycle my way. That of course raises many eyebrows – you don’t see a bearded man on a tricycle in the supermarket every day. I understand that, and I don’t mind telling people that I’m on a tricycle because of a brain tumour, not even if I have to do that every day. But what happened to me on the particular morning I’m telling you about, was simply astonishing.
The story starts several months ago. I had been teaching the whole day, and I was trying to find the train to Utrecht, to get back home. So I tricycled my way through the station, when an employee of the Dutch Railways (NS) told me to step off from my tricycle and proceed on foot. Normally I would have told him about my brain tumour, but since I was tired, I told him that I don’t ride a tricycle for fun. “Then why do you ride a tricycle?” he asked. “Because I can’t walk” I told him. He wasn’t convinced. He put his hands in his sides and took on what they call the ‘power-pose’. “I’d like to see that” he said with a smile. I couldn’t believe my ears. I became very angry, but I couldn’t think of the proper way to answer him. I just shook my head in disbelief and decided to ignore him. I cycled past him, and found my way to the train to Utrecht – and never looked back. I did my best to forget about what had happened, and I didn’t think about the events very much afterwards.
Again I was on my way to the train travelling to Utrecht. I was tricycling across the central hall of the train station when my eyes met those of the NS employee that I had met before. I was about to cycle past him, but apparently he didn’t remember our previous encounter, because again he told me to get off my tricycle. Without turning my head I cycled on, towards where the platforms are. I had hoped that this would be the end of our second encounter, but I was sorely mistaken. The man ran after me and grabbed the frame of my tricycle.
“How can I prove that I have a brain tumour!? I can’t just cut myself open, can I?!” I felt that I was losing my temper, because I really didn’t know what to do or say. A colleague of the man was standing several meters away from us, but didn’t interfere. It felt as if they were waiting for me to become aggressive. I knew that, so I knew that that’s what they’d expect. At a certain point the man looked aside, towards the entrance of the railway station. when he turned his head, he also moved his foot a little bit. And that’s when I escaped. I got on the train, and went home.
As I write this, I feel both proud and ashamed. Proud, because I hadn’t started shouting or become aggressive, but also ashamed, for escaping…