My friend Marty has gone back to Wisconsin, and my days are longer and quieter: no more intimate conversations remembering the time we threw my former husband in the lake, our trip to France ten years ago, and gossiping about old friends. We were able to do some shopping and eating as well, and do a few errands—like getting my handicapped sticker from the parking Nazi.
(And by the way, several people have commented to me about him since the last blog: he has not gone unnoticed in the community…)
But a part of what was involved in a little shopping was figuring out how to get IN the store in a wheelchair. To manage the chocolate shop, Marty wheeled me some distance to the end of the sidewalk where the curb was low enough to get up to the sidewalk. Then we negotiated our way back to the store, all in the pouring rain.
Once you get to a place you’d like to enter, the next problem is the door. Think of the heaviest door you’ve opened lately. I have three: two of them are at Munson, and one was at Orchard Creek. Those things would withstand a bomb blast or a tornado. Further, they all have attractive push plates that are supposed to open the door. When they work (and they don’t often work at the Confusion Clinic), the wheelchair-bound person often finds the location of the opener too far from the door to be able to wheel up to it in time to get through it before it closes. A friend of mine writes (and I quote without his permission but trust in his good nature): “ My favorite aha has been that most banks, certainly the older, smaller ones have doors that weigh just slightly less than a Buick and are almost impenetrable without assistance. They often won’t allow admittance unless BOTH doors are held open, since the size of one is insufficient for a walker or wheelchair.”
I solve that problem by using the drive-in, in the rare event that I have any money to deposit.
I’ve always been someone who has had the luxury of not thinking about the travel problems of the handicapped: it seemed trivial to me until I were one! I do remember a story in the paper once, written by a reporter who decided to traverse Traverse City in a wheelchair. It was quite amusing and interesting but, I thought, of no real relevance to me….although I do remember thinking when I was in Bosnia and some of the other Eastern European countries, that there were no handicapped amenities—bathrooms were in a dank basement down dark narrow stairs, and curb ramps were nonexistent anywhere. I pictured a war casualty forever stuck in an apartment, with only a tv for amusement.
One thing we DO have here in America, particularly in the big box stores, are the motorized scooters that wait, tethered to an electrical outlet, just inside the entrance door. Of course, the one time I used one was in a store which had many freestanding displays in the narrow aisles. I took out several of them, particularly in the housewares section, and left Meijers floor littered with packages of paper plates and plastic bottles of detergent on ‘special’. (When you can’t bend over, you can’t pick up stuff). My daughter was humiliated and ran back to put things right, and said (reproachfully), “Oh, MOTH-er,” when I tried to play chicken with my friend Buck, also on a motorized cart, when we met in the aisle.
But everything’s ok if I just stay home: the wheelchair is actually quite comfy, and I do almost all my sitting in it. If I am in the living room chair, I will even loan the wheelchair to my friends who come to visit. They don’t seem to mind sitting in it—but then, they don’t have to go anywhere.