Those In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Drive Backward

I’m at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York with my family – my daughter, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. I’m not a big museum fan – not enough excitement for me – but I try to expose my daughter to as much culture as possible, including art, and glass is an approachable medium for a 10-year-old, I suppose.

If you don’t recognize the name, Corning, you have likely used the company’s products. Corning touts itself as the world’s leader in specialty glass and ceramics, producing cutting-edge optics used in the aerospace and semiconductor industries. But, you probably know Corning for its casserole dishes that your mother used, a kitchen must-have for decades. Heck, my mother rarely baked, and even she had set of Corning Wear.

So, it turns out that Corning has been located in the quant, up-state New York town of Corning since 1868, and as a result, the town is built around the company, including the company-sponsored Museum of Glass. And, this is where we are this Saturday, following the self-guided tour through a four-story building that’s remarkably modern, with mood-lit paths, lined with floor-to-ceiling display cases of two-thousand-year-old glass artifacts that sparkling like flowing streams from a distance, drawing you on a winding route through the museum.

Even though it’s a Saturday, at the beginning of summer, there’s almost no one here – just us as we follow the twists and turns of the display halls. And, I’m all wound up. I’ve been working nonstop lately, and was planning on working straight through this weekend on three articles due next week, but my daughter and sister talked me into this day trip – so, I’m feeling like I’m off the hook, paroled for a day, horsing around in a glass museum.

Now, I admit that horsing around in a glass museum is surely a poor idea – undoubtedly as bad as it sounds. But, I’m a mature father, and a wheelchair professional, so the fact that my power wheelchair is turned up to its highest speed, set to 100% acceleration, and I’m making my family both chuckle and chastise me by my zipping ahead and cranking crazy-fast turns in the glass-lined aisles isn’t nearly as obnoxious or dangerous as it might seem. I’m a pro, and I certainly wouldn’t risk smashing up Corning’s truly priceless collection of glass.

But, now I’m driving backward, in front of my family, keeping pace with them, all without looking over my shoulder to see exactly where I’m going. However, as a pro, I know that I’m in the center of the aisle, which winds through the building, so as long as I stay centered between the displays via my peripheral vision, I can drive backward all day without looking.

“You’re such a dork,” my sister says, smiling, pushing her son’s stroller.

“I bet you can’t walk backward with your stroller like this,” I tease, increasing my speed.

“Har, har, har – Dork,” my sister says, laughing.

“See, I’m such a pro, I don’t even need a powerchair that drives forward,” I say, cruising along in reverse, without a hitch.

“There’s a pole behind you,” my brother-in-law says, walking beside my sister.

“Then maybe I should speed up,” I say, giving a sarcastic smile, knowing that my brother-in-law is being a wise guy, trying to trick me into turning around to look.

BANG! – my chair comes to a slamming halt, like a train just rear-ended me, knocking me completely out of position.

“…Told ya there was a pole,” my brother-in-law says, walking past me without a care.

“I thought you were joking!” I say, straightening myself in my seat, pulling away from the pole, driving in the right direction.

“Let that be a lesson to you,” I tell my daughter.

“Never play in a museum?” my daughter asks, walking beside me.

“No,” I say. “Never back a powerchair into a poll – it hurts.”


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

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