So I've been in a wheelchair since January.
It's....not that bad. At least, not that bad compared to crutches. Crutches are wobbly and tiring. Wheelchairs are a lot more relaxing to use, unless there's a staircase or uphill incline.
People have been, for the most part, overly kind and accommodating. Strangers give me a push. Even "standing" in line at a bank, kind people tell me to go to the head of the line as though the head of the line is a handicapped parking spot. ...As though I'm not sitting down while the rest of the people in line are standing. I try to point that out-- that I'm the only one in line who had the foresight to bring a chair.
I'm bummed that a wheelchair is optical birth control: it's a rare person who's attracted to the ...uhh... "Iron Man" look. Other than the OBC, though, I feel like I've been promoted to be everyone's favorite uncle. You've probably seen the same effect on a much grander scale any time a stranger brings a puppy/kitten/baby to the park: strangers gather around, start conversations, and feel far less stand-off-ish (afraid of?) the person with the puppy.
Maybe it's instant empathy, or just the realization that the guy sitting in the iron chair can't steal your wallet & run away. I don't know.
In general, the effect being in a wheelchair has had on me is not depressing. I guess I was emotionally prepared for it... even welcoming it after years of increasing reliance on tiring, wobbly crutches. So...not depressing, no. It's more like an engineering challenge. Every day I'm presented with puzzles like "That's a wheelchair-friendly bathroom? Really? How do I..." and "Why is this rest home for seniors and the disabled located at the end of a long empty road with a hill at the end?"
Every month, I get an idea for a handy improvement for wheelchairs. It's amazing how undeveloped they are... and when someone has developed and marketed an improvement or add-on, it's almost always less complicated than bicycle gears but inexplicably in the 3,000 to 7,000 manufacturer's-suggested-retail-price zone.
Things like cup holders, fold-away tray tables, backpacks that store UNDER the seat, and gears should be basic, not semi-exotic add-ons. Gears like "flip this switch and both wheels will move together in a straight line, even if you have a book in one hand" and "flip that switch and a ratchet gear prevents the chair from moving backward, so going uphill is easier".
A word of explanation: Much of the energy a wheelchair user spends going uphill is energy continually spent preventing the chair from rolling back down. If that part were gone, then going uphill would be reduced to a set of short pushes with the option for lots of easy rest stops in between pushes.
My perspective has changed, of course. Everyone seems tall, even 12-year-olds. Walking looks so....tipsy. 10 yards of sand between the road and the ocean looks like an impossible hurdle. The slightest tilt in a road or sidewalk means I'll have aching shoulders. Trips from bed to bathroom have an added element of risk: "Can I get there in time? If not, what'll I do?" Humanity in general, on an individual basis, seems... a lot nicer.
The doctors disagree about whether the chair's a permanent part of my future. In the meantime, I'm dealing with it one engineering problem at a time.Thank goodness I love puzzles.
Listening to: Brights and Michael Moore
Reading: Hume, on skepticism; Chomsky, on politics
Watching: "Religulous", a satiric documentary abou