Monday, October 20, 2014

A Bus. A Broken Chair. And A Bunch Of Boneheads.

Hello humans of the Internet,

So, I think we've established that I am only capable of doing this blogging thing about once a month. Once upon a time (about two months ago), I had intentions of doing this once a week. But, you see, it is very hard to write when you don't have a story to tell. It seems that interesting stories happen about once a month in my life these days. So there you go. Coincidently, I have a story for you tonight.

It all started this last Friday on a rainy day in Seattle. My little brother is a freshman at Washington State University, and was going to be coming home for the first time since starting school. Don't tell him I said this, but I kind of wanted to see him, so I decided to go home this weekend as well. His best friend, Sam, happens to go to the University of Washington, and decided to come home too. So, on this rainy Friday afternoon, we stood outside waiting for the bus. Well, in actuality, he stood, and I sat, but you get the picture. Anyways, as the bus pulls up, I go to move closer to the curb, and my chair won't move. I frantically turn   my chair off and then on again. It doesn't work, in fact the screen stays frozen in the on position even when it should be turned off. I soon realize that I am stuck...

Let me back up for a second here and tell you that I am not sitting in my normal everyday  chair. That chair, that $32,000 chair is broken and is sitting in a wheelchair shop waiting for insurance to be approved so that it can be fixed. I have one backup chair. A chair that used to be my everyday chair until I chose to get a new one because that chair does not do well in rain.  It has a history of running full speed into walls and spinning around in circles for hours (neither of which I have any control over) when it gets wet. This would be the chair that I am sitting in now.

When I realize that I am stuck, I turn to Sam and ask him how he feels about pushing me. Granted, the bus is pulling up to the sidewalk, so he doesn't have much of a choice, but he graciously says he will do so. All power wheelchairs have the ability to be turned on manual meaning that the power that gives me the ability to drive my almost 500 pound wheelchair is disengaged, and the chair can move freely, much like any other manual wheelchair. In  theory… I tell Sam how to turn my chair on manual, which he dutifully does. All seems to be going well again until he tries to push me. One side of my wheelchair moves freely as it should, but the other remains locked in the position that would only allow me to drive it. In other words, one side is moving and the other isn't. This makes pushing virtually impossible, but Sam continues to try.

Sam is not a  big guy, in fact, he is a rather small one (I love you man, but we both know it's true, and I need to set the stage here). So, we have lots of rain, one very large useless wheelchair, and a smallish dude trying to push said chair  onto a very large city bus, which undoubtedly has a schedule to keep. By this point, we are drawing a crowd. The bus driver lowers the ramp, which conveniently lands on my foot because I'm too close to the curb and Sam is unable to move me away because we are just that stuck. After several times of trying to help us get up the ramp facing forward, the bus driver suggests turning around and being pulled on backwards. Turning is surprisingly easy, relative to everything else, when you have one wheel that works and another wheel that doesn't. At this point, passengers on the bus get up to help. In my opinion, this is when the fun began because everyone was an expert.

Of the people that were around me (I'm not sure who got up to help, and who was just getting on the bus, because honestly I had bigger things to worry about), there was a very petite young woman and a very large man. There were other people helping too, but they didn't catch my attention because they didn't have wonderful insight to share with me. The very petite young woman, who at this point is really very concerned, but in reality is just really in the way bends over and informs me that her father uses a power wheelchair and that this happens to him all the time too. She tells me that the fix is quite simple, all I need to do is turn my chair off and then on again and it will work good as new. Oh, thank God she was there, what would I have done without this piece of wonderful advice? She persistently tells me to do this, even when I told her that I've tried already. She tells me three times to be exact. So, I decide to humor her. I turn my chair off and then on again, and when, for some strange reason, it still doesn't work, she goes and sits down. The next person to speak to me is a very large man whom I am grateful for because he also seems to be a strong man. He bends over to me, and tells me that I needed turn my wheelchair off because in not doing so I am preventing them from being able to disengage my wheelchair, and that is why they are unable to push me.  He tells me this in the voice that you use to talk to a two-year-old when you want to convey to them that you are not pleased.

 A couple things… Firstly, how in the world would he know? Secondly, did I really look like the whole mission in my life that day was purposely sabotage my own wheelchair so that I could get the thrill of having to have complete strangers drag me onto a bus? No. I am as unhappy about this chain of events as you are.

 My team of movers continue to literally drag me down the aisle way of the bus. Eventually, they get me into the designated wheelchair spot, and I'm strapped down. The bus driver asks me if I have anyone to help me get off on the other end. A very fair question, and one that I gladly answer yes to. But before I can get the word yes out of my mouth, somebody from somewhere behind me yells out that I just need to call the wheelchair tow truck.

 I really really really sincerely hope that I am stating the obvious when I say that a wheelchair tow truck does not exist.

 The rest of the ride went along smoothly, and I'm happy to report that my wheelchair even decided to start working again about halfway through the ride. Which in itself is a miracle, because let's be honest, if this chair stopped working, I would've been completely and totally SOL. Now, I probably sound like a really ungrateful gimp for ripping on the people who genuinely were trying to help me. Don't get me wrong, I really am grateful and I don't know what I would've done without those people, so if you're reading this and you're one of them, thank you, truly.

That being said, I will leave you with this piece of advice: if you see a cripple struggling and feel compelled to help, please do so, because chances are they really do need the help. But don't decide that you know how to fix the problem, unless of course you actually do. Because chances are, they, like me, were not paralyzed yesterday, and you will unintentionally end up saying something really funny, in which case you will probably end up being talked about on a blog much like this one.

Special shout out to my friend Sam. I sincerely hope I didn't break you.

I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Until next month, wonderful people of the Internet!

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