by Dan Spoone
Why is transportation so important to each of us? It’s the access point to being involved and integrated into our communities. We all strive to belong and fully participate as members of our neighborhood through work, civic activities, social events, family activities, evenings at our favorite watering hole and traveling to our special vacation destinations. Leslie and I spent Labor Day weekend taking an Uber ride to visit my parents at their assisted living apartment, another Uber ride delivered us to the Embassy Suites for a relaxing staycation in downtown Orlando, and a 15-minute walk to our neighborhood shopping center landed us at Devaney’s Sports Pub for our annual fantasy football draft. Leslie’s friend Judy gave us a ride to Brooklyn Water Bagel on Monday for a wonderful breakfast on their outdoor patio. Leslie’s friend Carol picked her up this morning for their aquatic workout at our neighborhood pool, and we walked up to our shopping center in the early evening for Taco Tuesday at our local Tijuana Flats. Tomorrow, my sister is picking me up for my stress test at the Altamonte hospital. I share these weekend activities to demonstrate that mobility access comes in many different forms, but it is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a fully integrated experience within our communities.
What are the different ingredients that must all come together to make this delicious community dessert? There are several important factors to consider. The opportunity is before us, but pulling it all together can be very difficult. Here’s the list:
- Location, Location, Location – We don’t have the luxury of getting into our cars at a minute’s notice and bolting out to work, run errands or meet a friend for lunch. So, location really matters. Can you walk to a local shopping center for groceries, banking, restaurants or entertainment? Are you close to work, so you can arrange a ride with a co-worker or hop on a bus? Are doctors’ offices, drugstores and schools within easy access? The right location is a huge first ingredient in baking your delicious community living dessert. Think of location as that perfect pie crust for the key lime of community living.
- Building Networks – It takes a village. We are living in a neighborhood with other people. How well do you know your neighbors? Building relationships can make all the difference. It’s a two-way street. What value can you bring to the relationship? Perhaps you’re a great cook, or you have expertise that can help others. You might be the person that organizes activities or brings life to the party. Building a community network with friends and associates brings the tangy fruit to your delicious key lime community pie.
- Have a Plan of Attack – I used to spend four weeks with my grandma and granddad Spoone in Morristown, Tenn. They lived on six acres next to Andrew Johnson Highway. They owned a gas station with a small convenience store at the edge of their front yard. Grandma Spoone never worried about needing something in her kitchen. The store was at the end of the front yard. At least once a day, Grandma would say, “Danny, run to the store and get me a stick of butter,” quart of milk or whatever she needed. I would head out the front door and be back in 10 minutes with her item. Sometimes this would happen several times a day. I was Grandma’s human DoorDash! Many of my sighted friends use this same approach for running their errands. They don’t need to plan their outings, because getting in the car and running to the store is no big deal. Leslie and I plan our trips to run our errands. I’m sure you all do the same thing. Yesterday, we went to our Publix shopping center across a busy six-lane highway. We take an Uber or get a friend to give us a ride. It’s a little adventure. We eat lunch at Jersey Mike’s, drop clothes off at the cleaners, ship some auction items from the UPS Store, buy birthday cards from the dollar store and buy our weekly groceries from Publix. We have developed relationships with the shop owners and employees. The manager at Jersey Mike’s gives us 50 free gift cards for our Greater Orlando Council of the Blind Trivia Night and the UPS Store gives us 10 percent off our shipping for the ACB auction items. By planning our activities, it gives us some control of our day and reduces our stress. You need a recipe (plan) to bake that perfect key lime community pie.
- Take a Risk – Doing something for the first time can be very scary. Remember how worried you were the first time you tried Uber? How about the first time you explored a new area in your neighborhood or a new vacation spot? It’s always pretty scary trying to find our way around a new convention hotel. Leslie and I tried a staycation this weekend. We did not know the layout of the hotel. Where are the elevators? Where’s the pool? How do we get to the free happy hour? Are there any good restaurants nearby? How do we navigate the buffet breakfast? It was nerve-wracking, but what an adventure! We walked three blocks and found a wonderful Italian restaurant. Across the street was a delightful yogurt shop, and we stopped by a small downtown Publix on the way back to the hotel to get eight bananas for the trip home. It was a great afternoon, and we cannot wait to try it again in a few months. It was scary, but it was so much fun! Don’t be afraid to try that new key lime community pie recipe.
- Know Your Transportation Options – We must all live on a budget. This budget is made up of both monetary currency and human capital. We need to know when it makes sense to invest our hard-earned money on transportation. Is the trip worth the cost? Do you want to spend $50 in Uber rides to travel across town to visit a friend, or would it be better to meet them for lunch before the metro transportation planning meeting next week? Is it a nice day for a walk? You can get some exercise and save some money on a ride. Is it a good time to ask that friend for a ride to the doctor, or would it be better for their schedule to plan a trip to the grocery store next week? Could I ask my sister to pick up my prescription at the drugstore when she is going to get mom and dad’s medicine? There is a balance between money and human capital. Knowing how long to put the key lime community pie in the oven can make all the difference.
Have Fun – Life is short. Enjoy your community. Don’t let transportation be a barrier. Think of it as an opportunity to build relationships, make friends and participate in your neighborhood. It takes a village. It’s time to eat. Yum, yum! What a delicious key lime community pie. Sheila, thanks for the recipe.