The evening after we got married, Joe and I, along with Mike, Marissa and the girls, went back to Signs for dinner. We went the first time for the experience of being in a restaurant being served by deaf wait staff and learning sign language as we ordered. We came back because of the sense of welcome, true, but really we came back because of the food. It's really good food. They have a great menu. So all of us decided it would be a wonderful place to go, relax, have fun, and have dinner.
Joe and I arrived early. The ramp is a bit intimidating and I'd never managed it on my own. Joe had never even helped me, it had been Mike helping me both times. But one of the things that you learn as a wheelchair user is that you can't always rely on help being there, you have to push yourself and you have to try to do things on your own before ruling out that possibility.
So I squared myself and made it up the first half of the ramp. But I couldn't make the turn at the top. I rolled back down. I looked at it again and thought that I needed more room on my right to make the turn. Rolling back down I realized that, no, I need room on the left to accommodate the back wheels. Zip. I made the turn. OK, nearly there.
The next section of the ramp is steep. I'm heavy, my power chair doesn't like really steep inclines. But I backed up as much as I could, maybe an inch, and I barely managed to clear the top, but I managed. I was delighted. I did it on my own and I'd made enough errors to learn what works.
It was upon arrival at the top I noticed that a small crowd had gathered on the other side of the street, they, along with patrons who were sitting at the tables inside the restaurant and beside the ramp, had been watching all of this with great interest. I had the immediate sense of being a circus freak. I had the immediate need to simply flee the situation.
But I didn't.
I had to realize that however they saw me, kindly or unkindly, was not relevant to me at that point. What was relevant is that I got up the ramp without assistance. That was the only thing that mattered. Next time there wouldn't be as much of a show. Because I know how to do it.
In the end, the dinner was delicious, the service wonderful, the company fabulous and we had a good time. By the time we left the crowd, now gathered at the back of my mind had receded in proportion and importance.
But I'd be lying if I said, they weren't still there.