We arrive home, the wheelchair is in the back of our Volkswagen Beetle, pressed up against the window. Joe opens the door to get out, cold pours in, enveloping me in a cold embrace. I get out of the car as he sets up the chair. On the ride home, and in the few seconds taken to set it up, the chair freezes. Cold burns through my gloves as I begin to push myself to the door. The rubber on the tires makes an ungodly sound, like they are shrieking in pain, as I make my way into the lobby of the apartment building. On the long haul down to the apartment, the chair creaks and groans, sounding like it's, oddly, on it's last legs.
The power chair is heading up the street, there's no one else around so I can go top speed. But in the freezing, freezing cold, the chair goes at about half the speed it can go. It's like the battery is working way harder. And speaking of battery, you can see the slow and steady drop of power left available to you as you make your way along. I consider carefully the distance I'm going. As I have good, big, tires on my chair I can make it over or through most of the unshovelled snow at curb cuts. By the time I make it to the mall, the chair is also creaking and groaning.
I'm not going out much.
Neither, from what I can see, is anyone else.
I'm finding myself with new habits because of the snow. When I come into the apartment building after being out in the power chair, I don't get on the elevator until I do three circles to the right and two to the left on the industrial carpet that the building lays down every winter. I'm pretty good at this now and the marks left on the carpet are a series of perfectly formed circles. I was doing this the other day when a young girl came in with her mother. She came in, wiped her feet, and then came towards the elevator. She watched me with fascination. Then she said, "What are you doing? Are you playing?"
I said, "No, I'm not playing, even though this is fun, I'm wiping my feet?" She looked at me astonished and said, "What?"
I explained that just like her boots get dirty, my tires get dirty. She wipes her boots, I do the same with my wheels. In order to clean them I do circles and that cleans off all of the tires, I go in both directions because then I get better coverage of the tire surface. She listened with interest, glancing every now and then at her dad, who also seemed interested.
"Wow," she said, "Winter's the same for you too, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," I said laughing.
Winter, the great equalizer.