That's what I call it, the Sick Bus. It's the 80; runs from the Kennedy Center to Fort Totten. Stops at two Kaiser Permanente centers, the VA hospital, and Washington Hospital Center. And to ride this bus is to look sickness and death in the eye nearly every time.
It's scary, really, the number of scooters, wheelchairs, canes, oxygen tanks, and bandages that can be found on a single bus line. And remember: I'm no first time rider. I've been on buses for over a decade now, from "bad" neighborhood to "good" one, east side to west, 3am or high noon. I've seen a lot. But this bus - which I used to take every day to get to work - now puts me in a sober mood after just one or two stops.
To ride this bus it to be smacked in the face with the realization that health care reform is so fundamentally crucial to who we are as Americans that it cannot be done wrong. Or not be done at all. Why must so many of my fellow riders struggle? Literally, physically struggle - to step onto the bus, to sit in a seat, to reach up and pull the cord to signal their stop, to walk off the bus to their destination. Is it really possible that everyone on this bus besides me has made bad decisions about their health that have led them to this place? And haven't *I* made many of those same bad decisions along the way? I'm struggling to eat healthy, exercise, and preserve my health. And I have every incentive - including monetary - to do so. Why am I in such a different place than the other riders?
These questions confound me and profoundly sadden me each time I ride this bus, which is only maybe once or twice a month at this point. I had become so desensitized to the suffering on a daily basis that only now do I realize just how sick this bus really is.
I invite every Senator, every Congressperson to ride the 80 with me on a Saturday morning. If you don't think we're leaving behind many, many people when it comes to healthcare, then you're dead wrong. We have to act fast, for many of these riders have little time left. That they have to rely solely on a sometimes-late, never-entirely-comfortable bus ride while simultaneously suffering from ill health makes me mad. They deserve better. We all do.