One of the biggest challenges of having a disability, is living the life one has without becoming constantly angry or bitter. Never, one realizes in a moment of flashing perception, because of disability, but because of needless, often stupid, barriers. We are staying in a hotel attached to a shopping center. There are escalators that go down into the shopping center, but the elevators, for some inexplicable reason, have been sealed up. they are replaced with a very long, very steep, set of ramps that go down into the mall itself. I had finished work for the day and wanted to get out of the hotel, where I present again the next day, the last day of my lectures, just to signify that the day was over. Oh, and to shop a bit.
I knew I could get down the ramps, though long and steep, though they'd had slalom gates put in to stop skateboarders and to wildly inconvenience wheelchair users. But I knew, equally, I couldn't get back up, they were far too long, far too steep. I haven't been on an escalator in five years, but Joe advised that they were narrow so I could hold on both sides, that the steps ran flat for several feet before they began to raise, did I want to try. I knew that I couldn't go down them, that's just far too dangerous, but up might be possible. We went to the shopping center.
We both tried to figure out why they would have installed nice, new, lovely escalators and sealed off the elevators. How anyone could think that 'ramp' always meant 'accessibility' .... when these clearly weren't. But we went. We needed a couple of things, I found a terrific presents for Joe and for Ruby and for Susan and Belinda and Shannon, even found something little and something nice for me. All in all a success. So we went to the escalator. Luckily no one was around so I could take a good snoop. I thought maybe I could. Then I remember that choice was removed, I had come down, this was the only way up. Sometimes having only one option is really quiet a motivator.
I got up, got over to the escalator, Timed the movement and then reached forward for the sides, and stepped on. I had a good brace, holding on to each side, but feared the top. I loose balance and fall so easily. But I focused on stepping off. I made the step and then was propelled off the escalator. I had no sense of space and went reeling around trying to find a wall, or a guardrail or something to hold on to, to give me purchase,my heart was going crazy, I was terrified. Joe arrived seconds later. It was then I realized that there were two escalators and I had one more. Again, I repeated the procedure, the top now was fear filled. My body doesn't know how to regain balance at the top. 'Fall forward' I order myself. I flew off the top and then noticed that there was a little fence around the top of this one I got hold of it and stood firm. Joe got me into the chair and I almost cried with relief.
True, I got to do what I wanted to do. True I negotiated the barriers. So why don't I feel something other than anger? I suppose that maybe I didn't like the fear that was attached to it. Not the fear riding up, but the fear that comes from being at the top of a staircase, moving or otherwise, with no balance and with a momentary feeling that if I can't find something I'm tumbling over, and the stairs might have made a quicker exit down than they were a ride up. We came up to our room, even though friends were waiting for us in the bar, because I wanted to catch my breath, loose the fear, stomp out a brewing anger ... and enter to an evening of chat and fellowship not carrying anything more than the anticipation of a good time.
It was work, but it's work that I will always try to find the energy to do. Because I don't want
to ever, give up and just put up with the barriers needlessly placed in my way. I never want to become resigned to the way that things are. But neither do I want have these things in the center of my mind while the three spirits of anger, resentment and bitterness stir up the mixing pot of emotions in my chest. Barriers, built by architectural bullies and concrete hearted city planners, exist for the sole purpose of being smashed down - I know that. That means I have to be willing to swing the hammer. But, now's not the time. We went down to the bar, I ordered a cup of tea, and the chat turned to what it should have been all along, friends simply talking, planning the future, and laughing.
At one point, when we were all laughing, I think I heard the tiniest crack form in one of those barriers. It might have been it's little heart breaking because it was built to be a barrier but all it turned out to be was an annoying little piece of my day.