Wheel And Deal

It’s proved interesting working consumer mobility tradeshows over the years, where I’ve noticed that consumers fall into fairly clear patterns of intentions. There are those who attend shows knowing exactly the wheelchair they want, eager to explore it in detail with a manufacturer’s representative, with a depth that they may not find at their local provider. Then, there are those who know they will need a new wheelchair in the near future, attending shows to window shop, where they can view almost all wheelchairs in one place, trying products, collecting brochures, and heading home to contemplate what they’ve seen.

Still, there’s a third profile, one exceptionally uncommon, but seen at every consumer show that I’ve worked: The gentleman who’s shopping for a new wheelchair, convinced that the process is identical to haggling a deal for a new car.

“There are a lot of great chairs here – why should I bother considering yours?” he asks, rolling up to me in my booth.

“I suppose I could give you many reasons,” I say. “But, I believe that products should speak for themselves. What type of chair are you interested in? I’ll be glad to show you what we offer.”

“Oh, I know what kind of chair I want,” he says, glancing around my booth. “And, I know what I’m willing to pay.”

“Are you looking to replace your current chair?” I ask, studying his chair, noting its product class and signs of wear, determining which products in our booth might be of interest to his needs.

“Yes, but nothing fancy – I know how all you guys up-sell,” he says. “I’m not getting suckered into all the bells and whistles.”

“How about a horn,” I say, reaching over, beeping the horn on a scooter next to me, smiling. Beep, beep, beep.

But, he doesn’t laugh or smile.

“Well, we have our newer models over here,” I say, maneuvering my chair, rolling toward the line of powerchairs of varying sizes and applications.

“Don’t you have last year’s model?” he asks. “A past model year should be cheaper.”

“Actually, powerchairs don’t go by model years like cars,” I say. “But, we have models to fit many funding levels.”

“OK, let’s cut to the chase,” he says. “Show me the one you can give me the best deal on if I buy it today.”

“We don’t actually sell powerchairs,” I say. “We’re the manufacturer. To purchase a powerchair, consumers go through a dealer. And, there are dealers here at the show. But, we’re here to educate consumers, reviewing products with them, answering any questions they may have.”

“So, you’re telling me that if I offered you a million bucks for that chair, you wouldn’t sell it to me,” he says, pointing at one of our smallest powerchairs.

“For a million bucks, I’d sell you that chair, my own chair, and that lady’s chair over there,” I say.

And, he finally smiles.

“But, in all seriousness, we don’t sell directly to consumers,” I say.

“Alright, show me what you’ve got,” he says.

I pull out of the line a powerchair of similar size and seating to his current chair, and he transfers into it. He spins in a circle, crosses the booth, squeezes the padded armrests, and rolls up beside me.

“I like it,” he says, leaning closer to me. ”Zero down, $319 per month?”

“Do you have a trade-in?” I reply, and we both laugh.

One Night Only

I have no idea what time it is, but it’s late – maybe eleven or midnight? But, because we’re strolling back to our hotel on the night of MedTrade’s big parties, Atlanta’s downtown sidewalks are still busy. Block after block, people have been congratulating me on my performance, as if I’m the real deal.

“You were awesome tonight!” a woman shouts to me as we wait to cross a main drag. “I was one of the women security pulled off the stage when you were up there – that was me!”

This all started a few hours ago, harmlessly enough. Every year, my company throws a provider appreciation party one night during MedTrade. First and foremost, the annual party is a terrific opportunity to socialize with the providers we work with throughout the year, an inspired occasion to get to know those who we strive to support. Secondly, many of us have spent a lot of time leading up to the tradeshow, preparing details and products, then once at the show, we work very long hours, so the party is an opportunity to relax a bit, and get to know providers and co-workers while enjoying great food and music.

Somewhere along the line this year, however, I decided I should get up on stage and sing karaoke with the live house band, reckoning that would be one heck of a good time, for me and the huge crowd.

…Well, in good conscience, maybe I need to stop that part of the story, and go back a tad farther in my retelling of the evening to explain exactly how I even got to the epiphany that I should get on stage in front of a huge club of people and put on the rock and roll show of my lifetime….

Somewhere along the line, I asked a bartender for an empty glass, a straw, an energy drink, and a double-shot of Jack Daniels. Not only had I never had an energy drink, I never had Jack Daniels, either – and by the looks on my friends’ faces, I concluded that no one had ever combined the two, no less. Indeed, my college chemistry was somewhat limited, but I knew enough to instruct my friend how to place the double shot in the glass, then add double that amount of energy drink, and then with a constant draw on the straw, I took it down in one breath. It burned like kerosene going down, but, surprisingly, it had no affect on me whatsoever – that is, until I felt compelled to get on stage with the band, and rock the house as no other.

“Brian,” I yelled to my co-worker and travel partner over the loud music in the packed club, “we have to get me on stage with the band.”

Brian chuckled and smiled at me, appearing skeptical but tempted to go along with this for the ride.

“Really – I’m serious,” I yelled. “Let’s get me on stage with the band – I’ll rock the house.”

We made our way through the crowd to the side of the stage, to the woman who was handling the band’s play list.

“I’m Mark Smith, with Pride,” I yelled into her ear, pointing to the company T-shirt I was wearing. “Can you squeeze me in quickly to do a song?”

I was trying to play two trump cards – the usual move-the-guy-in-the-wheelchair-to-the-front-of-the-line card, and the I’m-related-to-the-host card. I figured that she couldn’t say no to getting me on stage in short order.

“The band’s going on break till 9:20,” she yelled. “But, I’ll put you on the list for then.”

I thanked her, and realized that a wheelchair, a position in a company, and a self-invented cocktail is really all you need to become a rock star – what an easy gig.

Brian and I headed out toward the lobby to plot my performance coming up in half an hour.

“We have to spread the word,” I told Brian. “Let’s get everyone.”

Brian went upstairs in the club, and I stayed downstairs by the lobby, both of us spreading the word that I was going on stage at 9:20 – a performance not to be missed. And, word spread like wild fire, people pouring into the downstairs club room.

Close to show time, I rolled up toward the stage, everyone patting me on my back as I squeezed through the crowd, and security moved the front-row barricade, allowing me to the side of the stage, where there was a ramp. Off to the side, in the dark, I waited in the wings, ready to rock the house.

“Mark Smith,” the MC announced, and the crowd cheered.

I rolled on stage, looking out to the crowd of cheering people, a guitarist to my right and left, a drummer behind me, colored lights shinning down. I took the microphone from the MC, and was ready to roll.

“I’m Mark Smith with Pride,” I shouted. “I’m in my Q6000, and I’m on the highway to Hell!”

The band immediately went into playing the AC/DC’s classic, Highway to Hell, and the crowd went nuts.

With the mic in hand, fist in the air, I went into the lyrics.

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride….
…I’m on the highway to hell….
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me round….
…I’m on the highway to hell….

Women were jumping on stage, and being removed by security. The crowd was pulsating up and down in sync with the beat, fists were pumping in the air. And, I was a man possessed, screaming the lyrics, working the mic, and playing to the crowd – my rock-n-roll attitude in full affect. At the guitar solo, the guitarist came up to me, leaning back with his guitar in play, rockin’ to each other, a scene from any great rock show. On queue, I went back into the lyrics, and the crowd was shouting along.

Make no mistake, I was up there, with the crowd in a frenzy, my stage antics in full affect, and the band blazing, living life at 300 miles per hour, with a wheelchair, and cerebral palsy, and an understanding that there’s nothing more liberating than simply enjoying every moment as you are, in your own skin, for the world to see.

Now, the woman on the corner is still going on and on about how I rocked the house. And, she leans in and hugs me, and my chair moves, suddenly powered.

“You ran over my foot,” she says smiling, stepping back.

I glance at the crowd around us.

“No, honey, you hit my joystick,” I quickly reply.

The crowd bursts into laughter, and I realize that there was something left to interpretation of my reply.

“If you know what I mean,” I say, winking at her, spinning my chair around, heading back to the hotel with my friends, a ruckus rock star for one night only.

Logs

“I like riding on your lap to the bus,” my daughter says as we make our usual morning path to the school bus stop, where I see her off to school, then make my way to work.

“You don’t know how good you have it,” I say, peering over her right shoulder, driving my powerchair down the sidewalk.

“I know – the other kids have to walk to the bust stop,” she says.

“No, I mean, you don’t know how good you have it compared to when I was a kid,” I say.

“How?” she asks.

“When I was a kid, not only did everyone walk to the bus stop, but it was four miles away, and it was worse for me because not only couldn’t I walk, but I didn’t have a wheelchair, either,” I say.

“That’s no true – you had a wheelchair,” she says.

“No, I didn’t,” I say.

“Then how’d you get around?” she asks.

“A log,” I say.

“What do you mean, a log?” she asks.

“My parents were poor and mean, and sat me on a log, telling me to learn to push it,” I say.

“No – that’s not true,” she says.

“Imagine trying to push a log for four miles to the bus stop each morning, up hill,” I say.

“I’ve seen pictures of you as a little boy, and you had a little wheelchair,” she says.

“…But, coming home was easy because it was all downhill – I just had to stay atop the log as it rolled,” I say.

“You’re the most teasing dad ever,” she says.

“You call it teasing, but I’m telling you, it’s absolutely true,” I say, pulling up to the bus stop.

Las Vegas Friends

I’m 715-feet in the air, looking over the side of my powerchair, with an unobstructed view from my rear tire, to the teeny-tiny swimming pool and dots of lounge chairs that are 55-stories below me – this is as close as it gets to skydiving in a powerchair.

I’m at the Ghost Bar, atop the Palms casino in Las Vegas, parked in my powerchair on a glass block about the size of a kitchen table. The glass is imbedded in a balcony floor, providing a crystal-clear view from the top of the Palms, to the ground below, a view that one might only briefly retain if they were plummeting toward Earth. Few at this mobility industry gathering thought that I’d have the guts to drive onto the glass, but I had two bits of information that I reckoned would prevent me and my powerchair from meeting our maker on the concrete pool deck below: Firstly, I once saw three drunken pseudo-celebrities jumping up and down on this very glass block on MTV’s “The Real World, Las Vegas”; and, secondly, no business would ever have such an attention-grabber unless it was foolproof, so I was confident that the window over the world could retain my weight.

Despite my confidence, anything is possible, and what if something went horribly wrong during the engineering and installation of the glass block, and the weight of me and my powerchair was the so-called straw to break the camel’s back, sending me into a catastrophic freefall over Lass Vegas? Fortunately, in either case, I couldn’t lose – if I lived, I would be respected for having the guts to roll onto the glass, or if something went wrong, I would have among the coolest death stories in the history of mankind, having fallen 55-stories in a powerchair. With such a win-win situation, I had to take the dare, and roll out onto the glass block.

So, here I am, parked on a glass block, high above the Earth, surrounded by a crowd that’s seemingly impressed by this non-impressive feat. Indeed, I’m not falling to my death, which may be just the sign I need that my luck at the black jack tables is about to change for the better.

“Come on, Dave,” I say to my colleague, “let’s go down to the casino, and play some cards.”

I’ve just won forty bucks in half an hour playing black jack, so now I’m saving my winnings, drinking a casino-courtesy Coke, and watching Dave drop quarters into a slot machine. An attractive, twenty-something woman just sat on a slot machine stool next to me.

“How’re you guys tonight?” she asks.

“Fine, winning here and there. How are you?” I ask, making idle conversation.

“Good,” she says. “So what are you guys doing tonight?”

“Hanging out,” I say, watching Dave fight to get his quarter back from the now-jammed slot machine. “What are you doing tonight?”

“Just looking to make new friends,” she says, winking at me.

Now, I’m not the most naive guy you’ll ever meet, but this has never happened to me. I just realized that I’m being solicited by a prostitute, and now I’m clueless how to handle this situation that I’ve innocently talked my way into.

“We’re both happily-married men,” I say, holding up my left hand, showing my wedding ring like garlic to a vampire.

“So you’re not into this?” she politely says.

“Actually, I’m more inclined than he is,” I quickly say, pointing at Dave, whom just pushed the button to call for an attendant to get his quarter back.

Oh no – did I really just say that? Did I really just say that I’m more inclined than Dave toward prostitution? If there’s ever been a statement that’s come out entirely wrong, it’s the one I just said.

Dave looks at the woman and says, “What did he just say?”

“He said that he’s into it, but you’re not,” she says with a smile, as if in entrapping me with my entangled, misinterpreted words.

Dave looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, and I’m hoping that casino attendant shows up quick, giving Dave his quarter and diffusing this whole situation.

“No, that’s not what I meant,” I say, somewhat panicked that now I’ve inadvertently solicited the woman in return. “What I meant was, Dave’s very religious, and while I’m not personally into your thing, I’m not against it. Well, I am against it, but not against it, if you know what I mean.”

She’s looking at me like I’m speaking Japanese to an Englishman, and I might as well be – this whole solicitation dialog is way out of my range of experience, and I don’t know what I’m saying. Where’s that damn casino attendant?

“Look, we’re not into it,” I say, figuring I have to put an end to this conversation. “We’re both happily married, and not into any of this.”

Finally, the casino attendant arrives, using her key to open the machine to get Dave’s quarter.

“OK,” the soliciting woman she says, standing up. “Good luck, guys.”

With the prostitute gone, and Dave’s quarter returned, Dave and I decide that we should head back to the party, and walk toward the elevator.

“Did I just sound like a complete idiot?” I ask.

“Considering that was your first solicitation by a hooker, I thought you were pretty cool,” Dave says.

“I guess so,” I say. “And, at least we’ve learned that prostitutes don’t discriminate based on disability – the ADA is really starting to pay off for me.”

Jerks

I know that I jerk – or, spasm, as it is – but, why is she jerking?

This all started minutes ago, when I entered this bank, wanting to transfer funds from one account to another. However, rather than it being a teller transaction, I had to go into the office of the financial specialist, who I’d never meet. When I got to her door, there was an elderly woman already in the office, ranting about her bounced checks at the local pharmacy. Finally, the elderly woman saw me waiting, and excused herself. And, that’s where all of the jerking – or, spasming, as it is – began.

“Can I help you,” Sharon, the financial specialist asked, standing in the doorway of her office, her bright blue, classic business suit painting a professional image, made especially dramatic by her slender, six-feet-tall-on-heels figure.

“I need to make a funds transfer,” I said, with a slight spasm.

And, in among the most remarkable scenes that I’ve witnessed, then she spasmed – not just a little flinch, but a flailing of her whole body, like Peter Burns in the classic Talking Heads video, as if her feet were anchored to the floor and her upper body was struggling to find its balance, arms flying through space.

But, just as I was awestruck, she stopped spasming, returning to normality.

“Sure,” she says, eloquently pivoting on her three-inch heels. “Come on in.”

As I followed her into her office, she intuitively moved a chair out of my way, so that I could pull in front of here desk. Here movements were so graceful that it seemed impossible that she spasmed so severely moments before. She sat in her chair, and I reached in my shirt pocket for my account information, with my usual spastic movements. And, when I looked up, back across the desk, she was spasming, too. I tried my best to hand her the paper, but every time my hand jerked, so did hers, making it like two airplanes trying to transfer cargo in mid air. Finally, I slapped the paper on the desk, and slid it to her.

“All the account information is on this paper,” I said, watching her read it off the desk as she typed into her computer.

So, here we sit, periodically jerking.

Now, getting back to my original question, I know why I’m jerking – I have cerebral palsy, for the whole world to see. But, why is she jerking, and why does she only jerk when I jerk?

If I knew why she was jerking, I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned. However, because she only jerks when I jerk, and I don’t know why, I’m intrigued. Maybe I should ask her why she jerks when I jerk? But, wouldn’t that be rude? Or, maybe she doesn’t know she’s jerking. Then again, I know when I jerk, so she must know, too. And, I never mind when people ask me about my disability, so maybe I should just ask her, bringing all of this jerking into the open? But, isn’t it wrong of me to presume that others are comfortable discussing their disabilities, and who am I to demand an explanation?

“Is it cold outside?” she asks.

“A little,” I say. “…Not bad.”

“It has been warming up,” she says, typing away.

Now, this is nice – she’s entering my transfer, we’re chatting, and there’s no jerking.

“Is there a fee for this transfer?” I ask, with a slight spasm.

“Yes,” she says, with her own spasm, slightly grimacing. “It’s an in-branch transaction.”

“Well, there shouldn’t be,” I say, my neck spasming. “I tried making this transaction online, but your system won’t allow it.”

“Let me call in the manger, and see if I can waive the fee, ” she says, picking up the phone, spasming with the receiver in her hand.

A woman soon walks in, who I recognize as the branch manager, and now is my chance to see a third person’s reaction to all of this jerking.

“I’m transferring funds from one account to another because your online system wouldn’t allow it, but Sharon tells me that there’s a in-branch fee,” I say, spasming, looking at Sharon to watch her spasm, then capture the manager’s reaction.

But, Sharon doesn’t spasm, calmly stating, “Can we waive the fee for Mr. Smith?”

“Sure,” the manager says, “take the fee off for him.”

“Thank you,” I say, looking Sharon square in her eyes, deliberately slipping my leg off its legrest, throwing off my balance, fostering spasms that are impossible not to notice.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Smith,” Sharon says, gracefully returning to her computer, typing at fast pace.

I sign the form authorizing the transfer, spasming here and there, with the manager watching, and Sharon remaining as steady as a surgeon.

The manager leaves, and Sharon thanks me for my business.

“You’re welcome, and I appreciate your help,” I say with a twitch.

“Certainly,” she says, twitching, too.

“I knew I wasn’t imagining it,” I say.

“Pardon me?” she asks.

“Every time I jerk, you jerk,” I say. “But, when your boss was in here, you didn’t jerk.”

“I know,” she says, walking to her door, hinting that I should leave.

“OK,” I say, rolling toward the door. “You know, you and I should have tea sometime.”

The Mathematics of Halloween When Your Dad Uses a Wheelchair

“I’ve got an awesome idea for trick-or-treating this year,” I say to my 9-year-old as I roll into our kitchen, home from work.

“What’s that?” she asks, always eager to talk about Halloween.

“We’re going to go get me a costume,” I say, taking off my jacket, putting it on an empty kitchen chair.

“Cool – what are you going to dress up as?” she asks, pulling out her chair, sitting at the dinner table.

“I don’t know,” I say, “but here’s the kicker: I’ll dress up in a costume, and when you go up to the doors trick-or-treating, you point to me and say, ‘My brother is in a wheelchair, and he needs candy, too.’”

“I can’t do that,” she says.

“Why not?” I ask, pulling up to my spot at the table.

“Because it’s wrong,” she says, smiling.

“You’re the kid knocking on doors, asking strangers for candy – now that’s wrong,” I say. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to take candy from strangers?”

She tilts her head and just glares at me.

“Come on, it’s brilliant,” I say. “If we dress me up, too, we can get the same amount of candy in half of the time, or twice as much candy in the same amount of time as last year – it’s a math thing. And, some people might feel bad for me, your poor brother in a wheelchair, and give us double dips of candy – we could get exponential amounts of candy then.”

“Mom, Daddy’s trying to get me to cheat on Halloween,” she tells my wife who’s standing by the counter, preparing dinner.

My wife walks over to the table, and sets down my plate. “Leave the kid alone, and eat your dinner,” my wife says, always annoyed by my antics.

“Fine, maybe I’ll just go trick-or-treating by myself,” I mumble, looking down at my dinner.

“Good luck getting up the stairs,” my daughter whispers across the table.

Secret Service

I’ve been through countless security screenings at airports, and this line looks a lot like those – only I’m outside, and going to meet the President.

Now, when I say I’m going to meet the President, I mean the President – the guy on the news every night, the one who lives in the big white house shown in every fourth-grader’s social study book, the leader of the Free World. And, frankly, I’m a little nervous. Typically, I can calm my nerves when giving a big speech or attending an important meeting by saying to myself, “I’ve done this before.” Plus, the whole spastic cerebral palsy thing makes for good camouflage to hide my nerves. However, I’ve never spoken with a president, and right about now, I wish I’d spoken with a pope, as that would offer some self affirmation, at least. But, I’ve never spoken to a president or a pope, so I’m pretty much on my own as I sit here in line, heading for the security screening, ready to make my way to meet the President.

As I move closer to the security check point, with just a few people in line ahead of me, I see that it’s essentially a pass-through tent, with a metal detector, an X-ray machine, and uniformed officers and Secret Service agents everywhere. Finally, I’m the next in line, and as I roll up, there’s a uniformed officer to my right, and a suited agent – ear piece and all – to my left.

“Good morning,“ the uniformed officer says, glancing down at my powerchair. “Just wait right here.”

The officer looks above my head, to the agent on my left, and says, “Get the dogs.”

Dogs? Get the dogs? Does he mean German shepherds trained to sniff and attack? Oh, great, on among the biggest days of my career, I’m going to be turned into a cerebral-palsied chew toy for Tank and Vito, two police dogs who only respond to German commands and weigh more than I do. One misplaced muscle spasm in my legs, and I go from well-dressed to dismembered. Maybe if I just repeat, “I’m a rag doll,” over and over again, as my physical therapist taught me when I was a child, I can sit still long enough not to be maimed, just like when getting a haircut or going to the dentist or trying to pretend that I’m asleep so my wife won’t bother me with her chit chat in bed.

“If you call out the dogs, we have to take him out of the chair for liability reasons,” the agent replies to the officer.

Did I vote democratic lines in one too many elections? Dogs? Taking me out of my wheelchair? I just want to speak with the President – after all, a wrestling match in a suit, on wet grass, with two German shepherds, wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the invitation.

“Can you get out of your chair?” the agent asks.

Ah, now he’s heading in a more positive direction, and I’m careful to answer, knowing that there’s a right answer, and a wrong answer.

“No, I can’t,” I say, getting them on a technicality, where if I can’t get out of my powerchair, they can’t call out the dogs, which then can’t turn my Lands End dress trousers into tattered, grass-stained tug-of-war rags.

“Do you mind if I check you?” the officer asks.

“Please do,” I say.

He checks my powerchair thoroughly, pats me down, and instructs me through the metal detector, lined by an exceptional number of security personnel. I roll through, barely fitting through the detector, my powerchair triggering the alarm, and continue on, ten feet or so past it, where I look back, thinking I’m all clear – shoes on, no dog bites or grass stains – and I wait for others in my group behind me, still going through security.

Directly in front of me is the quintessential Secret Service agent – six-foot-something, black suit, ear piece, standing with legs spread and hands folded. And, he looks me right in my eyes, expressionless. “Hi there,” I say casually, smiling.

His eyes slowly move up from mine, notably looking to someone behind me. “Search him,” he simply says without moving a muscle.

A finger taps my shoulder, and it’s another uniformed officer. “I have to check you, sir,” he says. “Did the dogs already search you?”

There’s a right and a wrong answer to that question, too, and I just think to myself, “I’m a rag doll.”

Fight With A Garbage Can

I’m not proud of it, but I have a confession to make:  I got in a fight with a garbage can.   

 

It was garbage pick-up day, and as a surfed the sidewalk in my powerchair on my way home from work, I went around a garbage can on its side, blocking much of my path.

 

Thump, thump, thump.

 

 I look down the side of my powerchair, and the garbage can is somehow stuck on my powerchair, my drive wheel in its opening as if specially fitted.

 

I spin left, and the garbage can turns with me.  I spin right, and the garbage can follows.  I use my one hand to push away the garbage hand, while operating my powerchair with my other hand, and the spinning garbage can about rips my hand off as it continues rolling with my wheel.

 

“Alright, you piece of garbage,” I yell at the can, “let’s go for a little ride.”

 

I shoot out onto the empty street, the garbage can’s handles thumping in cadence as they hit the ground in rotation.  I spin crazy doughnuts, and the garbage can stays on.  I make reverse U-turns, crazy forward S-turns, and the garbage can still maintains its seeming suction to my wheel.  I slam the garbage can off a curb a few times, trying to trash the trash can, smashing the bottom section into its own eccentric shape – all to no avail, with it remaining an unforgiving appendage of my powerchair.

 

So, I head home.  I cruise down the street, full throttle, garbage can jetting from my side, beating like a drum as the handles bounce off the asphalt at an 8.5mph rotation.  I don’t know how I’m getting in my house, like a dog with a stick in its mouth too wide for the doorway, but I can’t spend all evening zigzagging down the street like pinball, trying to shake the garbage can off of me.

 

Two blocks into my high-speed pace, the garbage can finally gives up, flying off of my wheel, rolling beside me for a few feet, then spinning off to the side.  I turn my powerchair around, get a good, running start, and slam the garbage can with the front of my powerchair, punting it onto the sidewalk.

 

“I hope you never find your way back home, you rotten piece of garbage,” I yell

 

“Are you OK?” a woman asks from a porch, startling me.

 

“Yea – but that stinking trash can might need some help,” I say, spinning around, heading home.

Tap, Turn, And Roll

“You were more fun to play with when you were into Barbie dolls,” I tell my daughter as we sit at our kitchen table, reading the directions to a board game that perplexes the heck out of me. “This game makes no sense – place the card on a square, tap it, then turn it, then roll the dice, and whoever rolls the highest number wins. What kind of game is that?”

“It’s a fun game,” my daughter says, setting up the board.

“When I was a kid, we played checkers – that’s a game that makes sense – and the smart kids played backgammon,” I say, pretending to continue reading the directions, but more tuned toward making up rules as we go along.

“Did you play backgammon?” she asks.

“Sort of,” I say.

“So you were just a little smart,” she says, smiling.

“Oh yeah, let’s see how smart you are – show me how to play this crazy game,” I reply, giving up on the directions.

She places a card on a square, taps it, turns it, then rolls her dice, raking a 9. She then rolls the dice for me, ending up with a 6. “I win!” she says, adding a card to her winner’s square.

We move through another round of tapping, turning, and rolling – and she wins again. “This is rigged,” I say. “Because you’re rolling the dice for both of us, you’re somehow cheating.”

“Actually, because you can’t roll dice real good, and I have to do it for you, it’s not cheating,” she says, defeating my claim with a technicality.

“Because I need you to pour me orange juice, does that mean you can poison it?” I ask.

“Maybe,” she says tapping, turning, and rolling, defeating me further.

“Can’t we play checkers?” I ask.

“Sure, I love checkers,” she says.

“Wait – you always beat me at checkers, too, right?” I ask.

“Yep,” she says.

“Forget checkers, then,” I say. “Can’t we play some sort of wheelchair game – I’d be great at that.”

“OK,” she says. “What are manual wheelchairs made from?”

“Aluminum,” I say.

“You win,” she says. “Now back to my game.”

“Alright, let’s finish your game,” I say. “And, by the way, you’re not allowed near my orange juice anymore.”

Dirty Bird

This Thanksgiving, I have a confession to make: I’m a dirty bird.

Now, at this point in my life, I think I’m achieving many of my goals, with a healthy, happy family, stable career, and virtually no vices – heck, you can even open my closets and peek under my bed, and all is as spotless on the inside as it is on the outside.

Yet, as I roll up to the Thanksgiving table this year, homemade paper pilgrim hat on my head, wearing a crisp, rustic-orange shirt and turkey-adorned neck tie, I will still have a dirty secret cloaked beneath the ironed, white table cloth: My muck-and-mired powerchair.

I swear, I try to keep my powerchair clean – I really do, especially for occasions like Thanksgiving dinner. But, I just can’t seem to keep it spotless and speckless for any duration. It’s like making a bed, only to intrinsically mess it up again the instant you lie down – that is, as soon as I clean my powerchair, it’s dirty again by the time I roll out my front door. It’s a curse, really.

Now, one might suppose that at some point during the year, when there’s a dry stretch of weather and I stick to paved surfaces, I must be able to keep my chair clean for some time, right?

Nope, not a chance. You see, I’ve been convinced ever since I was a child that powerchairs actually create mud. People say that freshly-washed cars make it rain, and I attest that clean powerchairs create mud. Sure, my wife will tell you differently, that my powerchair only gets dirty when I drive through all kinds of yucky stuff on my way to work each day, that I’m then too lazy to wipe it off promptly, resulting in a powerchair that’s always dirty. But, I’m sticking to my story that no matter how much time I spend cleaning my powerchair, it stays dirty because it simply makes its own mud.

For Thanksgiving this year, I will once again sit at our family table, the scene groomed and gracious, silverware polished, turkey tanned, where like a newscaster behind the anchor’s desk, I will look poised and picture-perfect from the waist up. However, beneath the draped, starched tablecloth will sit my dirty bird of a powerchair, having gone another year flawless in its function, but still unbathed, even on Thanksgiving – inevitably the way I like it, surely collecting a few drops of gravy and cranberry sauce on the fenders in celebration, no less.