Five Things No One Tells you about Using a Power Wheelchair
1) Wheelchairs can lose weight.
Oh, it's true. My wheelchair has lost at least two inches around it's middle and three around it's base. I've not put it on a diet or anything - electricity light, nor have I actually measured the dimensions. But I know its true. You see when I first got the wheelchair there were all sorts of places it didn't fit. It wouldn't fit through the doors at the south end of the Eaton's Center, they were just a wee bit to narrow. But we were caught in a rainstorm the other day and decided to try again. Suddenly, it fit right through. With room to spare! Who knew!? In my first week in the chair, I'd attempted the same thing and simply couldn't make it. Now, without a problem, it fits through.
2) People will be astonished and lavish praise on you for your skill at getting around.
When I back into an elevator, those that aren't annoyed at waiting while I do so, are almost uniformly impressed. Really, really, impressed, if I played a fanfare while backing in I do believe they'd applaud. Some have that look on their faces that I've seen others get in watching a dog perform a trick or a pony jump through a burning ring. Amazement. I get complimented all the time for simply turning a corner or for negotiating along a sidewalk. I always smile demurely, a trick that's handy to have if you've a disability, rather than congratulate them for their ability to balance on those two tiny feet.
3) You will become a curb cut expert.
All curb cuts are not created equal. I know curb cuts here in my neighbourhood. I can tell you which side of Yonge Street is easiest to travel right the way from Bloor down to Queen. I come to think of curb cuts as having a personality of sorts. There are the welcoming curb cuts, rare enough to be celebrated; there are the decent ones, the majority fit in here; then there are the vicious ones, steep drops and unlevel connections. There's one I absolutely hate, I only go over it if absolutely necessary. Most often I will cross over at the set of lights south of it and then cross back over at the set of lights north of it. I hate it. I want it to know that.
4) A power chair (or scooter) isn't a Volkswagen.
When we first got our VW bug, we noticed that others who had them would wave to us when we drove past them. Odd. A club. Membership. I thought maybe the same thing would happen using a power chair. I would notice others using electric mobility devises and smile at them. Most looked at me annoyed. Some, a few, smiled back. It seems that we definitely don't have a club. Way too bad. I figure we all face the same things so we should be able to pull up to someone and say, 'any hints about getting round Metro here?' But, alas, no. There are a few though, who declare membership. Yesterday, just leaving a grocery store, a fellow, big white beard, wee small chair, rolled over and asked me about my chair. 'You've got the biggest wheels I've ever seen,' he said. I was, oddly, inordinately proud at that moment. Seems he's getting a new chair and wants big wheels, 'better traction in the winter'. So I told him the make of my chair and we parted company. Nice. Membership. It's an idea.
5) Men's asses will kill ya if you aren't careful.
I try to be careful of gender based statements, but my experience is that women are much more aware of body space than are men. I've never had a woman nearly drive me out into traffic or smash me into a wall. Men, and their attached buttocks, however, have done so often. I'll be sitting looking at something and some guy will turn around and their butt will connect with my joystick (oh shut up) and send me careening off somewhere I don't want to go. In the subway I'm terrified. I try to hide in a group of women, using their boundaries as a shield for my personal safety. I think scooters and wheelchairs should come with a warning: use caution when operating anywhere near men's bums.
Don't you feel edified?
Don't you feel informed?
Me, I live to serve.