Thursday, December 20, 2007

TAB Privilege

TAB stands for temporarily able-bodied. It's a rare human being who isn't physically disabled at some point in their life, so most of us are TAB. I'm not sure why but I'm really sensitive to noticing the privilege lately: I'm seeing it on blogs a lot. And I have just spotted it in a funny op-ed at the New York Times.

Seth Stevenson wrote it to criticize people who travel with roller bags, those suitcases with a pull-out handle and wheels or casters to make tugging them along behind you easier.

People, you never need more clothes than you can comfortably carry in a shoulder bag. Soldiers in ’Nam got by with less gear than the average executive now packs for a two-day trip. Unless you are a deep-sea diver or, maybe, an iron-ore salesman, your luggage really shouldn’t necessitate load-bearing wheels.

Or unless you are someone with a physical disability.

Or a person who needs to appear in clothing that a soldier in the field wouldn't wear. Or someone bringing gifts for loved ones. Or someone who is easily bored and brings lots of books and knitting (like me).

Of course, Mr. Stevenson will no doubt respond that he didn't mean disabled people, and that should be obvious. But it's not obvious, and denying your privilege is one of the perks of having it.


Bryan Hasson said...

Well, I don't think it's fair to attack people who are traveling like at an air port or train station, but there is an over-abundance of people using them just for your backpack.

I understand that they make it easier to bring your stuff; the load is off your shoulders, and it's easy to pull. Plus, since they are usually framed, they provide just a little bit more space than an average backpack.

However, people are using them instead of backpacks simply because it's easier. That's not a big deal, but when you bus, like I do, they tend to take up more space. Plus, some people want the ramp lowered so they can get on easier, which takes forever.

My biggest deal is that people use them when they don't need to. An old lady might use one because it's easier on her back, or a student might because the sheer weight of their books is overwhelming, but just people who are going to work for the day, or middle-schoolers who don't have much anyway. I think that's over-doing it.

Plus, people use the extra space to bring more things, which is an obvious advantage, but they don't need to. When my wife and I came to stay with you for 3 days and two nights, we brought two shoulder backpacks to last the whole time there for both of us, plus our 8 month old who needs a lot of stuff. Some people just bring way too much. Some of the time, I can put a few diapers and the bag of baby wipes in my back pocket and I'm all set, don't even need bags or anything.

Stef said...

Also, not everything in a roll-on suitcase is clothing; sometimes people have medicines, medical devices...

Kai Jones said...

My biggest deal is that people use them when they don't need to.

You can't always tell that by looking; that's the whole point of the post, that people might have some physical disability that you can't see, that isn't obvious, and that judging everyone else by the standard of what you can do is a privileged position.

jaylake said...

I was forced to switch to a roller bag due to tendonitis, aggravated primarily by slinging a shoulder bag. I don't think this counts as disabled, not even a sliver thereof, but it's a practical, physical issue.

Stef said...

The system encourages us to blame other individuals instead of looking at ways to make the system work better.

So when people with rolling luggage clog public transit or want the ramp to be lowered, it's easy to blame the people in question and think, "Here are a lot of people being selfish by using public transit in a way I don't personally approve of."

It would be better to ask "how can we redesign public transit to make it more usable?"

One blog I read had an article about how a person using a wheelchair on a bus was told by other people on the bus "You shouldn't use the bus, because when the ramp is lowered for you, I'm late for work."

Never mind that it might just be possible to design the ramp to work more quickly. Or that a person might leave a bit sooner for work in case wheelchair users exercise their legal right to be on the bus. Or that work could be redesigned to have a more flexible starting time (which would encourage more people to use public transit).

Bryan Hasson said...

I don't think that people clogging up the bus is a big issue, I just think that it's fashionable to use them now, so everybody is, and they don't need to. It's the same thing as senior citizens. Using walkers is in fashion now, and you know what, great, because they are really useful to those people, but now every old person has one, and that does make it difficult when you're trying to get a stroller, car-seat with infant in it, and backpack for school on the bus, and then someone with a walker gets on and you get up so they can have the wheelchair bay you've put your stroller under and you have to stand and hope the bus doesn't lurch around too much.

Walkers are a littler different because they are useful (it's just that most senior citizens can get by without one, and they used to), but roller backpacks when you don't need the ease they provide just seem silly to me. It's like the slew of UG boots I've seen lately, they're basically a rubber sole with some yarn. Sure, warm and comfy for around the house, but out in the rain in Oregon and walking around? My feet would get soaked. Or flip-flop/thongs. It's 30 degrees and raining out, and people are wearing these things. How do they not get frostbite?

I guess I just get ticked off when I see something useless or silly, it's a trait I don't like about myself. I wish I could just shrug it off and say "Eh, whatever. It doesn't affect me." But I can't because I like to correct everything I see and make it more efficient or better, and when I see things like that, all I can think about is how much it is wasting.