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Who is the last person you hugged?

This is a bit like that thread we had here recently, about people adjusting others' clothing. I'm quite a tactile person and when my mobility and balance were normal, I'd often hug and be hugged. But after I started needing a stick to walk there were a few times when I got swept into an unexpected hug, risking a fall and injury, and found that I needed to speak quite sharply to make the person let go of me.

It's another of those things where you might get advised to consider how the other person feels, what they mean, whether they knew that hugging wasn't safe. But with sudden hugs it's not just about those things. It's also about whether I fall into a busy road and I know people for whom it's about whether bones get dislocated.

For me the hug-danger has greatly reduced since I started using a wheelchair. Both because I'm far less likely to fall and because it makes my disability far more visible. These days, when somebody wants to hug me, phe tends to approach quite cautiously. Except for a small minority who stroke and fondle me. Perhaps they're trying to show how unprejudiced they are, or how much they care about me, or something. It makes me feel invaded, dirtied and irritated! but I try to keep a gracious face pinned on. It's nothing that a shudder and a change of shirt won't cure.

David Sedaris- Pretty much awesome.

I read this over in David Sedaris' Naked and I thought it was snarky and hunourous enough to share, and I think a lot of us here can relate:

"A person in a wheelchair often feels invisible. Push a wheelchair and you're invisible as well. Outside of the dorm, the only people to address us would speak as if we were deaf, kneeling beside the chair to shout, "FATHER TONY IS HAVING A GUITAR MASS THIS SUNDAY. WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN US?"
Peg would beckon the speaker close and whisper, "I collect the teeth from live kittens and use them to make necklaces for Satan."
"For Peg, being invisible was an old and tiresome story. To me, it definitely had some hidden potential. So began our life of crime."

I wish I had the wherewithal to respond like that when people act like I'm completely incapable of doing ANYTHING AT ALL EVER whenever there are wheels under my arse.

Dear BigCorporateInsurannce Company

Thanks ever so much for locating the security footage and determining that it was not the restaurant's fault that I fell, since I landed in the drive-through.

I suppose you failed to notice me falling off the unmarked steps. Totally my fault. I shouldn't have even been there since it was dark and it was raining really hard. Guess I should have sprouted a third hand, so that I could wipe off my glasses. I guess you thought I meant to just step off of that top step with my walker. So many people with walkers walk down steps face first so often, I see how you would be confused. I appreciate your offer offer to cover any medical expenses I incurred up to $1000. Unfortunately (?), my injuries weren't that severe, although my hand felt bruised for the next month. Maybe I should just buy a new walker and send you the bill? Or, maybe I should just have you foot the bill for designing and building my own?

No love,

EDIT:I tried disability advocates. Not so helpful. You got hurt? They don't do that. I just don't have the energy, anymore.

Happy Festivus? :-D

What, no excellent holiday snark?

You're all much much nicer than I am.

Or maybe just too freakin' tired.

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I really wish I could ask Santa for spoons for Christmas.

Happy Holidays, y'all!!!

Dear World,

Yes, I had a brain tumor over 27 years ago. Someone obviously still wants me here, so here I am. Sorry to mess up your plans. I'm still disabled, too. Imagine that. Sorry I'm still walking, not the happy little potato you wish I was. Suck it up. Yes, I know I was supposed to be "cured." I shouldn't still need physical therapy, should I? Thanks ever so much for making it unavailable to me. I'm sorry the insurance I have it wouldn't cover it since my tumor was not last year & the pittance you give me has not made me independently wealthy enough to pay for it.

No love,

Vegas: a few cripple notes

Dear Las Vegas Strip and casinos:

You are overall a very impressively accessible place, especially now that you aren't totes full of cigarette smoke. Big kudos!

Your "handy" (great phrase) cabbies are for the most part far better educated and much easier to acquire than in my home city. And major praise to the blokes working the cab rank at McCarran who took the time to educate a misinformed cabbie about who can and can't stay in a strapped-down chair and why, and who made extra sure that I was not insulted and that I was okay with using that cab despite the driver's confusion. I had awesome cabbies my whole time there.

Las Vegas restaurants and theaters will ask you if you "wish to sit in a chair" (on a good day) or if you "can walk" (on a less politically correct day). I have at last learned why. It is because almost every elderly visitor to Vegas rents a scooter or is pushed in a transport chair. These people do not want to stay in their unwieldy and uncomfortable chairs, especially if they cannot reach the table they are eating off of. (Scooters are notoriously not table friendly.) So the server is trying to figure out if you need a parking space for that monster, and if she should pull a chair out for you or not. They are, actually, trying to *accommodate* us. They're just a bit clueless about using the right words. (Especially when English is not their first language.) So I try not to take offense unless they say something particularly tacky in this situation. I can't really expect a minimum-wage restaurant greeter to know the difference between "Will madam be transferring to one of our chairs today?" and less politically correct options. She just wants to know what table to put me at.

Scootaround continues to provide great service in renting me a power wheelchair, at least in Las Vegas. Service seems to vary wildly by local franchise operator - the one in St Louis appeared to be run by a senile Luddite - but Vegas has now been a model of efficiency twice in a row.

Las Vegas, your sidewalks are appalling. If I had been staying any longer, my partner threatened to go buy a bag of concrete mix and fix the hole that's been there for over a year now. You'd think I could stroll two blocks to the Strip without having to fall into a gravel pit. And that's on the side that does have a sidewalk!

Southwest again does a good job of transporting me. The only hazard in traveling with them seems to be that, thanks to senior fares, tons of elderly wheelchair users also fly with them. So far bringing my own manual chair along ensures that I get helped before they do. (No offense to the elderly folks, but I have met too many selfish entitled-feeling wheelchair-stealing elderly folks who give me dirty looks for attempting to use "their" resources.) The staff remain decently educated and helpful on disability issues, as well as cheerful and pleasant in general.

The same cannot be said for the wheelchair pushers working McCarran, who cut me off and made the security process a lot harder to deal with. On the other hand, I was treated respectfully and professionally by the TSA (or their contractors) at McCarran this time, and did not have to file any complaints. Seems they've gotten the hang of wheelchair travelers for much the same reasons that the Strip has; they see lots of them.

A crisis of conscience

Dear well-meaning door-holders,

I know we all find my cane awkward.  I'm sure it would be much better for everyone if my condition did not often necessitate my use of such a device.  It really is incredible that a young-looking lady such as myself might need such a thing, isn't it?  Especially since The Powers That Be, with their grand sense of humour, decided to grant me such an imposing height and a frame that is, well, not exactly reed-like. 

But consider this, well-meaning door-holders.  When your oh-so-predictible demeanor cycle of shock, stare, embarrassment, guilt (and no, I am not using The Stick to make you feel guilty, please!) finally comes around to "awkwardly trying to help", you are probably already too late to help with the door.  It is more likely that you are blocking the door while you belatedly try to figure out how best to assuage your guilt for staring by engaging in a chivalrous gesture. 

Let's picture this for a moment.  If your position is similar to that of most people, you will now walk halfway through the door, and reach back to hold it part-open for me.  And now we come to the crux of the matter.  I am large.  And I am also left-handed, and usually carrying a sizable backpack full of collegiate essentials.  And of course, The Stick.  You can tell that I am left-handed because my left hand is the one that is free and reaching for the door, which you have so obligingly opened just far enough that I have to overbalance myself to grasp.  This means that The Stick is on my right.  Now, what would you imagine is the best way for me to get through this door, given that it is almost certainly insufficiently open for me to enter without hanging up on my backpack or The Stick?  I am not so very clumsy, though perhaps I am not as graceful as you.  But when I twist around to the right, left hand reaching vainly for the door, and then attempt to brace the doorframe on my shoulder as I twist back to the left, wrestling The Stick through the gap between my body and the frame, I do appear so.    Especially since this little dance often as not makes you stumble a bit as well, since you clearly did not expect that I would find shimmying through the gap you've so generously allowed me to be so complicated.  As you stumble, or simply let go, often the door gives a little bounce from your outstretched arm, dislodging it from my shoulder and encouraging it to give me, my Stick, and the side of my backpack a friendly smack as I lurch onward.  If I am particularly fortunate, I will find that some strap of my backpack has caught on the door during this maneuver , and I will wriggle madly in my attempts to dislodge it.  As my left hand reaches for the doorframe to steady myself, for I would not wish to do you an injury, o gentle soul, by instigating a collision, I usually have enough energy to arch my back into the assaulting door, bouncing it back again and saving my fingers from being crushed.  Usually.  But not always, as the marks on my fingernails can attest.  Of course, well-meaning door-holder, you cannot see the other bruises, whose number I may very well have just increased in our awkward dance. 

I suspect from your likely expression, well-meaning door-holder, that you may be dismayed by my unexpectedly great size and clumsiness.  Please believe me when I assure you that these things dismay me as well, as you graciously accept my well-rehearsed but no less sincere apologies for the tangle.  I bear you no particular ill will, after all... you are simply a victim of your own ignorance.  But the next time you absently attempt to be helpful, please try to understand that you are helping your own conscience, not me.   
This has not been a week when I feel like being particularly thankful.

Saturday I got informed by Dial-A-Ride that I had canceled too many times in the past month to close to pickup time, so they were sending me a warning letter. I scheduled 12 trips. According to them, I canceled 17% of the trips, which according to my calculator is 2.04 trips.

By my estimate, yes, I canceled twice, both times because I was sick (throwing up on one occasion), lacked stamina and was unsteady on my feet. I have virtually no immune system, as my lymphatic system does not work. So I'm susceptible to germs, and tend to get very sick very suddenly. I can be seemingly healthy one day and violently ill the next. This is not something I can change at will. I wish to God that I could.

Now, I called as soon as the DAR office opened at 8:30. (Officially, it opens at 8, but no one picks up the phones before 8:30.) I promise you that. But since my appointments were for 9:30...well, DAR has now decreed that they want more than two hours warning before a cancellation or it counts to against you. Aparently the good and the virtuous thing to do is to spread germs around and expose my already compromised immune system to MORE germs when I'm ill. Because, y'know, it's not like that could make others sick or make me worse.

I dread to think of what is going to happen in the winter when I make an appointment one day and it snows heavily during the night. What the hell do I do if I can't make it down my hilly driveway without slipping? DAR doesn't want sudden cancellations. They've made that VERY clear. And my cane and walker do not mix well with snow, sleet or ice.

Oh, and penalizing the old, the sick and the disabled for BEING old, sick and/or disabled and therefore having sudden health crises? According to the letter itself, this is a brand new policy instituted in October 2010.

Naturally, DAR did not deign to do any mail-outs informing people that the new policy was in force. There was a meeting in October to which "clients" of DAR could come. They announced the policy at the meeting. Those of us who were not at that meeting were shit out of luck. Why bother informing us until one of us breaks the rule we didn't know existed?

This is how it works. If you cancel or are a no-show for more than 10% of your rides for that month, you get the following reactions:

First offense in a rolling 12-month period -- Warning letter.
Second offense in a rolling 12-month period -- Suspended from using DAR for 7 days.
Third offense in a rolling 12-month period -- Suspended from using DAR for 14 days.
Fourth offense in a rolling 12-month period-- Suspended from using DAR for 21 days.
Fifth and subsequent offenses in a rolling 12-month period -- Suspended from using DAR for 28 days.

This would be far less irksome if I had not been marooned at the library on Sunday by--who else? DAR. Now, I was watching for the van from quarter of three on. It never came. So around 3:04 p.m., I called DAR to find out where the van was.

I was informed that the driver had shown up at 2:44 and had waited for me until 2:54.

This is a goddamned lie.

I was watching and waiting for the van anxiously, as I always do. IT NEVER CAME. In fact, nothing even resembling the van arrived. I saw nothing but cars, cars and more cars.

When I pointed out to the dispatcher that yes, I'd been waiting for the van and I'd hardly be calling to find out where it was if I had seen it, he got quite coldly angry and told me that the driver had BEEN there, and it was my fault that I hadn't shown up. He then told me that he'd TRY to get me another ride--making it clear that this was a matter of charity on his part, which I did not deserve.

I told him not to bother, I'd walk home. This seemed more logical to me at the time. DAR has already proven that it could not be relied upon; this was just its latest offense. However, I did know where I was. And I knew that I could make it home...if I was willing to pay the penalty of a couple of days in pain.

I was just furious enough to do what I said. The trip was 2.4 miles. My legs are STILL mad at me. But it was satisfying to just be able to say, "Screw you!" for once.

Nov. 20th, 2010

Dear Generally Terrible Person,
Bipolar Disorder is not something to joke about.
No love,

P.S. I see you've kindly changed "bipolar" to "batshit" in the entry. You're still a generally terrible person.