My watch has a second hand. That's why I can tell you the exact length of people's patience. 11 seconds. Do me a favour, if you are reading this within sight of a second hand, just stop and let it count down ten plus one seconds. OK ... I'll wait ....
(me humming 'over the rainbow')
Now, that really isn't very long is it. But it is the exact, I mean Xact amount of time that people can tolerate someone's needs. One second more, that would be a dozen seconds, and people go, almost literally, apeshit. There is no other, no delicate way of saying it, they go apeshit. Not externally, of course, but internally. Teeth grind, faces go sour, hair becomes brittle, voices clipped - it's a sight.
And, after three years in a wheelchair. I don't care.
It's about facing forward.
You see when I first became a wheelchair user, I would wheel myself straight into an elevator. Then, I'd wheel out backwards. It saved time. And lots of it. Way, way, more than seven plus four seconds. But I always hated it. Everyone else facing forwards, me facing the back wall. But it seemed little cost and, while it bothered me only a little at first, it began to bother me more and more over time. Now, it irks me. Yes, I said it, it Irks me. So I practiced and practiced and practiced some more. Now it takes me 12 seconds to turn the chair and back in. For those not skilled at math that's one second more than people have time for.
Today I tasted garlic in the sigh of a man rushing to be somewhere. He was annoyed to the point that he wanted me to know that I had held him up, me and my crippled body, had slowed him down. Him a man on the move, me the social obstacle to his happiness. His displeasure rippled through the air. His need to control time and the movements of others, had him almost crawling over me to get out of the elevator. All for one moment more than five plus six seconds.
Maybe I'm selfish, wanting to face forward, not ass backwards.
Maybe I am.
But I've noticed that taking those few seconds more hasn't ever made me late for a bus, late for a movie, late for a meeting. But they've made me happier.
I like facing frontward.
I like looking towards tomorrow.
I have come to appreciate, all over again, the wonder of having a second more to spend.
And I vow to spend it wisely.