Anybody who's ever used a chair or been close to someone who does recognizes the kind of inane things he's talking about. Things like: "Do you need a license to drive that thing?"
Why, he asks, do strangers never cease to make such strikingly uncreative, annoying comments toward our wheelchairs?
Of course, such comments are not unique to wheelchair-users. Most distinguishing characteristics--tallness, shortness, large nosed-ness, other well-endowed body parts (!), excessively curly hair--are probably prone to it. Names that sound funny to people who aren't used to them are frequently made fun of, too. It's no big deal. There are more important issues to complain about, more urgent battles to fight. Right?
But still, there it is. A small piece of what's sometimes called "disability culture."
So I'll refer you to Mark's blog, and then get on with my story...
Disability As A Social Condition: 1967-1971
I know they are discussing me, but I don't know why. I can't hear a word or see them to read body-language. They have closed the door. I'm on the outside, sitting in my wheelchair between a beige sofa and a beige armchair in the mostly quiet, fluorescently lit, antiseptic waiting room. I'm nearly six years old, and I have nothing to do.
Why didn't Alec have to come, to keep me company? Not that he would play with me. My older brother is nothing like me. A thin, spirited boy with straight dark-reddish-brown hair and a gap between his front top teeth, he's brainy and competitive, likes to play chess and baseball and go bowling. I, on the other hand, have big blue eyes and a mop of unruly blond hair, an adorable Cupid look. Mom's friends say they wish they had my curls, which I don't understand because I hate my hair. I want it to be straight, like I see on TV.
On Saturdays Alec goes to a sports camp while I watch cartoons, and in the summer a sleepaway camp in New Hampshire while I stay home and look for ways to pass the time.
Now, in the hermetic waiting room, I imagine leaping through the big, half-sunny window, kicking past the rattling glass and landing catlike on the street below just in time to chase away a squadron of bad guys. I'd roll on the ground to avoid their gunfire and then grab a loose drainpipe or tree branch and knock them all out till the police come …
I can pass a lot of time imagining highly athletic action scenes. But alas, I soon discover it's not enough time, and my boredom resumes. I can't hold up a magazine or book, and there's no table I can get to to roll my toy cars on if I had any toy cars with me.
Why do I have to go to so many doctors?
In truth, Dr. Spiro is one of my favorites. Every year, before the private parent conference, he examines me and talks to me in a soft, cheerful manner. He asks me to squeeze his fingers, follow his penlight with my eyes, stick out my tongue, feel the vibrations of his tuning fork against my knees and ankles (and tell him when the vibrations stop) and perform other easy tasks to measure my muscles and nerve responses. It always seems to impress him that I'm not stone paralyzed or retarded!
I like the attention. I don't mind being on display. It's best if I can stay in my wheelchair and not get lifted onto his hard, narrow examination table and have my clothes taken off. But either way—in my chair or on his examination table, dressed or naked—I try to put on a good performance. I'm famous for my good humor and bravery. I never even cry at shots.
[Stay tuned, dear reader…]