Adventures with Leslie, Crisis!

Caring for someone with disabilities requires understanding what kinds of programs/services are available in the community. Leslie is in a day program called Chimes. It gives her purpose – a place to go every day.

When I served as County Executive, I had the honor of touring many of the taxpayer-funded programs made possible with local and federal funding.

Accessing this information as a private citizen is a whole other thing! The rules and processes are a maze combined with an obstacle course.

Chimes has a private bus service, with a driver Leslie has known for years, but my house is 3 miles outside of the catchment area. I needed a plan!

I took Leslie to MTA Mobility for an interview so they could decide if she qualifies for disability bus service.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen those little white buses with Maryland-flag-inspired accents all over town. I never thought I’d be standing in my driveway waiting for one.

Leslie qualified for the bus and taxi service. In case you’re wondering, the bus is $2.20 a ride, exact change only, and the taxi is $3 a ride.

It’s a great deal – that’s if you can navigate the system to get a reservation. The first person hung up on me when I called to ask about the programs.

Then, even though Leslie’s photo was taken during her first interview, we must go back and get another photo taken….which means another phone call through the automated system hoping I push the correct numbers…and another trip.

In an effort to avoid the never-ending phone tree, I went onto the website to figure out scheduling. This led to another phone call. This time Julian didn’t hang up on me. He patiently scheduled her first-ever trip for the next day.

Leslie burst through my bedroom door like a toddler escaping her crib, ready before the sun was up.

The bus was scheduled to arrive at 8:37, which is exactly when we were standing outside waiting, even though there is a 30-minute window. When the bus wasn’t here at 9:09, I was back on the phone.

Operator 6661, after being told it was Leslie’s first ride, insisted on staying on the phone until the bus pulled up. Her guess was 9:19, which is exactly when it arrived.

By this point, I was nervous. Leslie was nervous. But all was well when we met Nije, the driver. She was the sweetest! I felt completely comfortable leaving Leslie on the bus with her.

Nije explained to me that not only do they call when they arrive so you don’t have to wait outside, but the driver comes to the door to help Leslie onto the bus.

Leslie handed over the $2.20 for the ride – 2 singles and 2 dimes in an envelope – sat down and buckled her seatbelt. Thirty minutes later she was at Chimes.

Leslie was so brave. Me? I cried.

She boarded the bus in the afternoon at 3:04 pm. By 4:00, I was worried, 4:30 in a panic. The ride home was an hour and forty-five minutes. I wanted to cry again!

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