Monday, August 04, 2008

Talkative Legs

A half block away from where we now live is a fairly large indoor mall. We access it by going down a long and fairly steep driveway into an underground parking garage and then take the elevator up. My heart is in my throat as we descend the steep slope, I know that if Joe lets go or I lose my grip I'd be in serious trouble. I think that fear is why we both laugh so much on the way down.

Yesterday we went over to the mall to catch a movie and do some grocery shopping. To do all this without getting in a car is wonderful. The grocery store is completely accessible until it comes to paying. The little laneways are too narrow for me to get through at the till. So I left Joe to pay and rolled along the corridor heading towards the liqour store where we needed to pick up some beer.

I stopped just outside the store and waited for Joe to catch up. While waiting a guy of about my age, with cerebral palsy, passed by on his electric scooter. He drove into the bookstore, thought better of it, and came back out and continued on his way. As he came by me I really noticed his legs. He was wearing short pants, which made sense on a hot summer day, and his legs were wounded - both of them - from knee to ankle.

There was no time to count but I'd guess each leg had at least thirty fresh wounds. All of them looking like bumps and scrapes. He wasn't the best driver, that I could see by the way he haphazardly made his way along the corridor, first zigging then zagging finally zogging. There was a jagged sort of rhythm to his driving. Each one of those injuries stood testifying to a life lived on the edge - each told a story. Years ago men like him didn't have legs that told stories.

There must have been the real sense of adventure in every foot of his journey. All along the mall corridor there were things to bump into, things to knock over, feet to squash. It was like an obstacle course for him. Yet he calmly and placidly just continued on. I respected him, admired him even.

Yet in minutes he had turned into another store and was out of view. I waited to hear a crash because he'd gone into a kitchen store that was full of china. I smiled as I imagined a horrified clerk not really knowing what to do as this crooked man made his crooked way down very uncrooked aisles past towers of china tea pots and fragile plates.

But there was no crash. No catastrophe. A few minutes later he emerged from the store with kind of a wicked grin on his face.

Kind of like the one I feel on my face when we are halfway down the steep ramp and I feel Joe's grip slip a bit.

What's life without a bit of risk?

6 comments:

Andrea S. said...

We all gotta take some risk sometimes ...

But, I wonder about that route you have to take to enter the mall. On one hand, I know some malls really do seem to be designed on the stupid assumption that every single customer coming to them has a car (completely failing to remember that 10% of the adult US population, shock, does NOT drive, at all, ever, for a wide range of reasons related to age, disability, poverty, and just plain choice). Because of this some malls just aren't designed to have a safe way for full-time pedestrians to walk up to them. So maybe the problem is lousy mall design, in which case there might be nothing you can do except write a grouchy letter (okay, I'm projecting because I get irked by lack of pedestrian accessibility).

But on the other hand, I've known enough car-dependent people, *ahem*, people who drive (or ride) regularly to know that sometimes it can be easy to fall into taking certain routes, not because they're the routes that necessarily work best when you're on foot, but because they're what you always took when you were in a car. So with that in mind, I thought it might be worth asking: are you sure the only way into that mall is via that steep drive way, or via the parking garage at all? Or might there be some other entrance that is better set up for people on their feet (with or without walking aids) or on non-vehicle-style wheels (wheelchairs, baby carriages, etc)?

Dave Hingsburger said...

andrea, there is another entrance to the mall, actually several. Most involve stairs - the accessible entrance is at the front which is a lot further away from us. Besides, where's the thrill in that? We'll have to use that entrance on any day that's rainy or snowy as I wouldn't chance that steep incline on any but the driest of days.

Andrea S. said...

Okay, was checking :-)

If it were me, I'd be irked at the limited range of options they offer to wheeling pedestrians, though!

Heike said...

Yeah, you should see my oldests' knees - and he's only 7! I don't want to know what his legs and ellbows will look like by the time he's your age... Yesterday my son decided to show me how he jumps on his knees on the tramploine. Except, he did it on the wooden floor in the living room. He looked at me funny, said, ouch, and continued talking about the trampoline. To busy living to be distraced by a bit of pain... He's learned how to not listen to his body and just go on I guess. Not sure it's ok in the long term, but for now, it keeps him going...

Mark Pathak said...

A long long time ago I came Wolf Wolfensberger’s ground breaking 1972 book “The principle of Normalization in human services”. Wolf has a great skill of saying in 500 words what anyone else could say in 10. So if you managed to get to the end of the 500 words without getting impatient you were hooked.

However there was one chapter in the book, Robert Perske’s “The dignity of risk”. It is only about 8 pages long but it changed my life.

Okay the language used is old fashioned, but if you can get past that and hear his message its mind-blowing.

Like my favourite cd and meal, I only read it every couple of years in the hope that it never loses its effect on me. I wont say any more about it other than I recommend it to all!!

Ps. I can e-mail it to anyone if they want.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I love you. I have three kids, and you keep me going. I just wanted you to know.
ps I love watching people and a person with a disability is my favorite. I probably would have caught his eye as he left the "china shop" and given him an affirming evil grin. I love civil disobediance!