Saturday, April 28, 2007

You've gotta be cruel to be kind

I am having a depressing dream lately. And no, it isn't the one where my friend get killed. She told me she doesn't even carpool her daughter to school, so I am sure she'll be fine. Well, pretty sure. I mean, why should this dream come true but the ones involving grifters and Anna K didn't?

No, my recurring nightmare is that Claren and I will be victims of some random act of kindness.

I mean actual mortal victims.

Claren will meet her maker in a bathroom with automatic doors. People who walk out just in front of me always press the button to open the door. I assume they think this is nice, nicer than just walking out the door and letting it close on me.

That sounds OK in theory, but by opening the door these people are making it really hard for me and Claren to get out before it closes again. We have to be on their heels; otherwise, Claren gets a bang on the ear.

She hasn't yet. The other possibility is she bolts ahead of me when the door starts to shut on her. I fly out of my chair and smack my head on the wall and lie there dead. Claren then wanders around looking for food.

If the doors don't kill us, she and I will get to the pearly gates courtesy of one of the drivers near where I live.

Most of the roads I cross have two lanes each way and a median. The problem occurs when I am in the median waiting for a clear path to finish crossing the street. One car will stop and motion me across. But that forces the car in the next lane to stop, too. I'm just waiting for that second car not to stop.

Of course, I could just motion the first car on, but that risks road rage. Plus, it makes crossing streets an adrenaline-pounding experience.

People just need to turn on their radio and listen to Nick Lowe.

And if anyone notices that occasionally I want help and other times I don't and you're wondering how to tell the difference -- good luck.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pretty puppy or diabolical dog?

I went to an awareness fair today to answer questions about service dogs. Mostly I just said: "Please don't pet her; she's a working dog. But you can pet the puppy over there." At which point they would leave us and go pet the puppy.

One of my longest conversations was with these two women. I was explaining how Claren's puppy-raisers thought she would be partnered with a young working man. At that point, one of the women said that was similar to her dog -- a female lab -- who is totally bonded to her husband.

I said that Claren and I are a definite pair, but that at playtimes Claren hunts out the dog-loving female humans to play with.

They both found this funny, and one said she is trying to be a matchmaker for me. They found that hysterical.

I started to point out that the problem is she doesn't distinguish between married and unmarried women. Actually, her favorite women are mostly married. So if she is trying to be a matchmaker, she is also trying to be a home-wrecker. My college roommate once suggested I teach her to look for rings to prevent this issue.

I think I am funny, and if Claren wants to split up Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. more power to her. But no one wants to hear about my devious dog, so the women left, probably to pet the puppy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blacked-eyed Mattys

I don't get black eyes easily.

When I was 9 or 10, I got hit square in the eye by a baseball thrown by an old-fashioned Iron Mike pitching machine. It probably came in only at 40 or 50 mph, but I didn't move at all ... until I was on the ground crying because I just got plunked in the eye.

One of my uncles kept telling me I would have a big "shiner" the next day, and I have to admit I was disappointed when it was hardly noticeable.

It wasn't noticeable when I punched myself in the eye this morning either.

I am not quite sure what I was doing, but I was in bed pulling something up toward my face, the sheet maybe. I lost my grip and my hand flew up, and I punched myself hard in the right eye. It really hurt, but the alarm was going off so I got up.

As if that wasn't enough eye-related annoyances for the day, about an hour later when I put on my shirt, my glasses flew off. Because I was blind I couldn't find them. I didn't want to move because I was sitting in a several-hundred pound wheelchair that would crush glasses. Finally, though, I had to move or just sit in my bathroom all day. I went and got my old glasses and found my new glasses that were uncrushed.

Then I went to work. And I was still a little disappointed that I did not get a black eye.

P.S. I was searching Google Images for a picture of a antique Iron Mike pitching machine. I couldn't find one, but on page 10 of the image search I did find a picture of a naked woman.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The life of the party

Not to sound too arrogant, but I can make people so happy.

Because of my disability and semi-shut-in status, when I do go somewhere it is a really big deal. I think people realize how hard it is for me to go places. What I need now is for them to realize they could make it easier — by offering me a ride, whatever.

But that is, perhaps, the next step.

I went to my friend's birthday party today and it was like a surprise party. She said repeatedly how happy she was I came and I know she was not expecting me. That is quite a gift I have, I guess, not necessarily a gift I want, but …

On the down side I left the party quite early. People were still coming practically. I unfortunately was only able to say hi and bye to two of my favorite people. But the house was old and small and I was very unconfident that I could get in.

Maybe next time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

They like me, they really like me

I got an e-mail at work today from a co-worker saying his wife's 30th birthday party is tomorrow and he just realized he left me off the invite list. His wife is great; she is another co-worker and one of the first people I met when I started my job (she was crazy young then).

I replied that I'd try to come and asked if it was near a subway stop. My plan was not to go, but sound like I might. That sounds kind of crummy, but it is a real pain to go places at the last minute.

He replied not really and asked if that was the only way I could come. I told him I might be able to finagle a ride, and he replied: "Let me know if I can help. I wouldn't want you to miss it because of that."

He totally called my bluff. Now I am going to a party.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Action figures, not dolls

I broke my toilet paper holder today. Again.

I think in the past year I have been without a holder more than with one.

I broke this one in an obvious and boring way. I was trying to pull my pants up, but they were caught between my legs and the bowl. When I tried moving, I lost my balance and at on the toilet paper holder.

Anyone who has ever played with action figures should sort of be able to sympathize with me.

You have a cool Batman action figure and you play with it and play with it, and then its knee joints become loose so Batman either keeps his legs perfectly straight or they are completely bent. But he can't have legs that bend a fraction; it's either all or nothing.

My knees are like that. They have two positions: straight and bent. I can move them between the two positions but not with any semblance of control. Hence the sitting on the toilet paper holder.

But I don't think any Batman or any other action figure ever broke a toilet paper holder.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Get me to the bathroom on time

I talked to my boss today about my 10-minute hunt for an accessible bathroom yesterday.

The first one I went into, the wheelchair stall had been used and left in a state that required some cleanup. I was about to just do it and even pulled out a bunch of toilet paper to wipe off the seat. But then I thought, NO. what kind of person leaves bodily fluid on a toilet seat. Not me. For example, today I slipped while using the toilet. This resulted in Claren and the floor getting a quick spritz. (Yes, it's gross. I said I was bitter, not pretty. Of course, I am pretty, too pretty to die, maybe that is the problem.) Anyway, I wiped that up.

The second one has had a river running through it from a leaky urinal for a couple of weeks, even though I complained about it last week. And like the goose poop, I don't like to wheel through toilet water.

Finally, I found one on another floor, but just to keep the story going, the bathroom door locked for some reason. I had to fiddle with it to escape.

My boss just said OK. There is not much he can do here. He suggested I call and complain about the water again and he said if it wasn't fixed to let him know.

Then I told him it was pretty crazy that a newish building had a big auditorium that is rented out to groups but does not have a place to sit in a wheelchair except in the aisle. He said to send him an e-mail about that and he would send it up the line and see what happens.

I guess that is a step forward. I don't think yesterday was the last day i'll spend more time hunting for a bathroom than I do using it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Unsafe at any speed

I use two wheelchairs -- a power one and a manual one. They are way different from each other, but today I almost died in each one in a remarkably similar way.

I was walking Claren down the driveway at work. Walking down the driveway is really the only way to be sure I can avoid the goose poop, which often litters the sidewalk. I realize the damn geese aren't just a problem for those of us in wheelchairs, but getting poop on your shoes is one thing. Getting it on your wheelchair wheels, which touch your hands and sleeves, is nasty. Plus, walking people can watch where they step.

I was on the right side on the driveway in my manual chair when it happened. I yawned. Which means I closed my eyes. And also raised my hands to cover my mouth. When I opened my eyes again, I was on the left side of the driveway, having crossed when my eyes were shut.

Granted, no cars were nearby so that was a pansy cheating of death. My evening ride made up for it.

I was in my power chair walking down the street where I live and trying to see if this new building had a sign on it. Luckily, the building is across the street from a sidewalk that has a fence next to it.

So when I went off the sidewalk because I was looking at the building, I hit the fence instead of rolling, or should I say falling, down the steep hill.

It makes me feel good to know that which wheelchair I use won't factor in my death. I could die in either one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Helplessly hoping

Even when my disability was hiding away under my Toughskins, I don't remember ever doing that trust exercise where you fall backward and your partner in the exercise catches you.

I certainly wouldn't try it now. It's not that I don't trust someone to catch me. I don't trust myself to fall straight backward or to stay relaxed. I am sure I'd jerk my way out of my partner's grasp and fall and break my back.

Instead, I play a hope game. It goes like this: I start to fall but catch myself. But I find myself stuck and holding on to a bar or a railing or my chair to keep from tumbling. The only way free is to let go and hope for the best -- that the floor won't be as hard as it looks, that my head will miss the marble sink, whatever.

Fun stuff. I am a hoping pro, though, amateurs should not attempt it.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Accessibility is my 12th man

I remember going to Redskin games with my dad at RFK Stadium. He had season tickets, and when we kids turned 10, we got to choose one game a year to see. I actually started seeing games when I was 9, which drove one of my brothers crazy.

Across the field from my dad's seats was a sign either exhorting us to be or thanking us for being the 12th man. Home field is a bonus for a team because the crowd pumps them up and makes it hard for the visitors to hear. And because there are 11 actual players, the crowd is the 12th man.

Thinking back, the shaking stadium and the deafening yells must have made the Redskins feel like superheroes and the visiting team feel like ants.

It doesn't make me feel invincible, but I totally enjoy my home-field advantage.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I want to be a jerk

My comic book store is moving. Even though I got the death of Captain America issues and Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 and 2, I am crushed.

Phoenix Comics was like my Cheers: They always knew my name and were always glad I came. Of course, they were glad because I was spending money, but they did seem to like me. One guy there even called me "jerk" once.

It was a warm spring day, and I was leaving and he told me to enjoy the weather. I said I was sorry he was stuck inside but that I'd definitely enjoy the weather. He said, "Sure, rub it in, jerk."

Not many people call me a jerk, either seriously or jokingly, so I was pretty tickled.

But now they are moving miles and miles away.

They were one of the few stores I could go to by myself. It took 40 minutes in the power chair, but it's a pretty nice walk, except for that turkey who has big gravel pieces in his driveway that spill out onto the sidewalk, threatening my balance. And the many uneven parts of the sidewalk and the sidewalk that tends without a curb cut. Wait a minute, that walk stunk.

But it got me out. There aren't many stores near me, let alone ones I want to become know at. Going to Kohl's just wouldn't be that cool.

Now I have to find a new store, but there are none that close.

Plus, who else is going to call me a jerk, except my siblings?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The love bus

"Welcome, my friend. Have a sip of Courvoisier while I secure your wheelchair. You'll notice the lighting of the bus has changed. I installed these soft red lights because they were, you know, sexy. And this is ... the para-transit love lounge."

This is what my driver should have said to me when he picked me up this mornings. Instead, he just said hi. Actually, it wasn't until we picked up another client that the lights should have dimmed.

Then, the things I learned: that women like men to look at their pretty legs, well most women. Of course, if a woman doesn't like a man looking at her legs, there is something wrong with her. Perhaps the most frightening for me: the other client offered to set me up with someone who has, I believe he said, big boobs.

I turned him down.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Feeling a sneeze in my feet

When I was little, I had a bunch of Playmobil knights (They were nowhere near as cool as this, but the feet were similiar). There was a game that involved the knights and the footrest of my dad's La-Z boy recliner. I think the knights wound up majestically soaring across the room; I know they wound up with their feet broken off at the shin. My mom tried to fix them by gluing cut-down popsicle sticks on their feet, but they were never as good.

I felt like one of those knights tonight. I didn't actually lose half my foot, it just felt like it.

I sneezed, you see. I was out for my walk with Claren, and I sneezed. Doesn't sound so bad ... unless you have been around for one of my sneezes, seen my head fly into a counter or a computer monitor, seen the laptop fly off my lap, seen me sneeze myself right out of my wheelchair.

I did none of those things tonight, but I had not turned off my power chair before the sneeze. My hand hit the joystick and my chair went forward; my feet flew behind the footrests and got run over. With my feet bent backward under the battery of the chair (the top of the foot on the sidewalk), my body flew forward. I had my seatbelt on so I did not fall but I was hanging off the front off the chair, my feet stuck underneath.

I could have used a hand at this point, but Claren wasn't offering. I knew I had to back up the chair to free up my feet, which would allow me to get fully back in the chair. But I was tilted so far forward because my feet were stuck. Finally, I managed to pull my trunk back on to the chair enough so I could back it up and pull my feet out. I'm not quite sure why the wheelchair didn't become to front heavy and topple forward. Except I would have been so pissed if that had happened, God himself was scared to let that happen. Well, pissed or dead, not sure which.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I hate being disabled


You'd think it is worthwhile, what with perks such as the prime parking spots, the ease of always having a chair with you, the ability to take my dog everywhere.

A lot of times, the hardest thing is you have to sit by, unable to help people you love. I would love to give my little sister a break and take their kids out or just watch them for half an hour by myself. I can't, though.

One sister did leave me in charge of two of her kids for a brief time once when my disease had progressed much less. Her daughter bounced into a wall while jumping on a bed, and her son wound up at the dentist because I had kneed him in the teeth (long story that really needs video to show that it totally wasn't my fault). That was my babysitting career.

I would like to be a big brother, especially now, because I really was kind of uncool to my sister when we were younger.

She seemed mostly to just mess things up. There was the time she and a friend destroyed an intricate city crafted in the sand box. Or the time my brother and I and a friend were sword-fighting with wiffle ball bats. Of course she had to join and we soon had to stop because she hurt her hand and our mom decided it was a dangerous activity.

We walked to school in those days and we made her walk last because she was the youngest. To be fair, though, we never threw our book bags down in front of her to trip her like some older brothers did to little sisters.

In high school, it was worse than just normal sibling stuff. I was an unpopular nerd, whose disability was just sprouting up. Making that worse: Along came my little sister who was popular and loved high school and did not have a disability. There were bound to be issues, and there were, mostly my fault. Her favorite story is how I yelled at her for putting the convertible top down on our car. I'm sorry, OK

I know that I am not worthless, that my words and presence do help people. But a wicked funny one-liner is not always much help. And I think how awesome it would be if I could not only tell a hilarious joke but also carry boxes when people move. Or take my nephews or nieces for ice cream. Or teach them how to sword-fight with wiffle bats.

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