Today I modeled for Studio 333 in Sausalito, CA. I had just traveled from Los Angeles, to Sacramento, to San Francisco, and to last but not least: Sausalito. During my long journey, I had a series of unfortunate events unfold... One of which happened at the Golden Gate Transit bus stop across the street from the San Francisco Chronicle in San Francisco, CA.
Sitting in my wheelchair, with a lap full of luggage, I inched my way to the bus stop. In a wheelchair, you can't pull around a regular luggage case, because you need your hands to push your wheels. Instead, you strap small bags to your chair, and pile the rest on top of your lap. This way of carrying your cargo slows you down tremendously; partially because of the weight, and mostly because it creates an obstacle for the motion of your body and arms when pushing.
When I finally made it to the bus stop, I cranked down the breaks on my Colours brand manual wheelchair, put on my headphones, turned on some energizing music, and went over my notes and emails to prep for the shoot. While researching the directions to the studio on Google Maps, I felt someone shove me. My body lunged forward a little, and my phone almost flew out of my hand. An old man started yelling at me, but I couldn't understand what he was saying over the sound of music playing in my ears and the image of careful photoshoot planning taking place in my head.
As I took my headphones off, the man was screaming at me for my wallet. I froze for a second, unsure of what to do. I had so much stuff, I couldn't push myself away quick enough, plus I'd risk putting my hands (my only tool for escape) in danger. I was also carrying relatively expensive equipment for work, that I couldn't afford to replace. So, when the man grabbed for my phone and tried to steal my stuff, I instinctively curled into a ball, hugging everything in my lap.... Hoping he'd either go away, or that someone from the crowd of people circling the situation would eventually help.
The old man was not happy with my reaction to his attempts at mugging me. He yelled, "I'm an ex-cop, you don't want to mess with me." He kept yelling things like this, but the sounds just blurred away, when all I could hear was the sound of his cane smacking my back. My parents had given me pepper spray and a stun gun when I moved to the Bay Area, but I couldn't stand the thought of hurting another person. I knew this man probably had a rough life to have to resort to mugging and beating helpless people.
Thankfully, the bus came, and the old man split. The items in my lap were crinkled from hugging them for dear life, and soaked from the waterfall of tears still running from my swollen flushed face. I looked up at the buff man standing in the circle of people, he looked like a professional body builder. After a minute of staring at each other, he looked away as if ashamed or embarrassed that he didn't do something. In that moment, I realized that I want to become strong like him, so that I can be someone's hero someday.
Although no one helped, I was glad the old lady standing next to the buff man at least gave me a tissue for my tears. I managed to smile at her, trying to thank her, and let her know that I would be okay.... She tried her best to smile back, but I could tell she was holding back tears in her own eyes as well.
Though I tried my best not to, I cried throughout the entire bus ride to Sausalito. When I finally arrived to Studio 333, I sat outside for a few minutes. I was trying to hide the tears, and wash them away with water. Obviously, I didn't do the best job. As soon as I wheeled myself in, they said, "Are you okay?!" I forgot how red my face gets after crying.
I told them a small bit of my day, apologized for being slightly late, and let them know I could look normal again by shoot time. They asked if I was okay to shoot, and I said "yes, of course.”
These sort of things happen all the time; a simple day-in-the-life of being in a wheelchair. I've been through worse before, and was not about to miss out on a shoot because of it. I'm sure glad I didn't! The team was awesome, and Laura Kudritzki captured some gorgeous photos.
Studio 333 offers affordable wall space and artist’ studio space so that artists can create and showcase their work in a positive, eclectic environment. During the 60’s and 70’s Sausalito was known as the “Art Mecca” of Northern California, and the gallery's vision is to bring Bay Area artists back to their roots. The gallery is run in a co-op style and the studio is presented as being fresh and fun. It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit if you’re ever in the area. You can call Studio 333 at (415) 331-8272. They’re open Monday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Tell them Breanna Baker sent you!