Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not Suitable for Wheelchairs, Really, We Mean It!

I have found myself in some interesting predicaments. Many of these predicaments have come from not believing posted signs. I always think that the "Don't Do That" signs are only written for insurance purposes. For example, on just about every kind of medication there is a warning that states: Don't drive heavy machinery while taking this medication. I believe that warning is there so that some knucklehead that drove a bulldozer through a house while on the medication couldn't sue the manufacturer of the medication. So, I have a tendency not to believe warnings on medication or "No Trespassing by Penalty of Death" signs because, really, is someone going to shoot a human being for stepping on their property.

This brings me to those "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs" signs. Really? I need to know how unsuitable they actually are. I think there are degrees of suitability from Okay-go-ahead-but-don't-blame-us-if-you-lose-a-wheel to We-mean-it-you-could-die. I have come across quite a few of these signs, and I have tested them out for there degree of suitability. At the San Diego Zoo there are walkways that have signs that state: "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs". The sign is absolutely correct! One might be deceived by the paved walkway and the sixty degree slope at the beginning of the path. It's that eighty-five degree slope that wheelchair brakes and a friend walking backward, holding the chair, wearing holes in their tennis shoes, trying to keep you from zooming at breakneck speed into the gorilla pit that the sign is warning visitors about. Been there, done that!

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do things that no other wheelchair bound person has done. I have been beach combing, white water rafting, hot air ballooning, glider plane riding, dirt bike riding, hiking, etc., etc., etc. I have been able to do these things because of my wonderful friends. My friends that look at me and see just Cathy not Cathy sitting in a wheelchair. When making plans my friends have never said, "We can't do that because Cathy is with us." They have always said, "Let's figure out how Cathy can do this with us." Two such friends are Jo May and Peggy Hillis. I taught with Peggy at the beginning of my career and Jo May (we never call her just Jo) worked at the district office. I was the rule follower that didn't want to do anything. Peggy was always the instigator, and Jo May was the one that always said, "Yea, let's try it!" Together, we were quite a trio.

Me saying, "Ooooooooo, I don't think we should. Someone could hurt, and most likely that will be me."

Peggy saying, "Come on you big whining, rule-following, baby! Let's go!"

Jo May smiling with that wide-eyed kid at Christmas grin saying, "Yea, let's try it!"

Quite a few years ago we were in Vegas when the three of us came across a sign that said, "No Handicapped Access". We were walking on the strip and we saw a shortcut to Cesar's Palace. It was a moving sidewalk. In order to get to the moving sidewalk a person had to go down four steps. Next to the steps was that sign "No Handicapped Access". Peggy was always ready for a shortcut, and Jo May was always ready to follow.

As Peggy and Jo May are checking out the stairs, I am saying, "You guys, it says 'No Handicapped Access'. That means crippled kids stay away from the staircase."

"Ummmm, Cathy, it is not a staircase. It is four steps," Peggy egged on.

"Yea, let's try it!" agreed Jo May.

"But, I have learned, in the past, that when it says 'Not Suitable for Wheelchairs' it is maybe not suitable. Jo May, do you remember the hiking trail in Prescott? It took us hours to get out of that canyon. We traumatized those Japanese foreign exchange students. And does anybody remember the San Diego Zoo when I was almost lunch for the gorillas?" I unsuccessfully pleaded my case.

"Cathy, you big whining, rule-following baby, no one died in Prescott or San Diego. It is only four steps, and the moving sidewalk is wide enough for a semi truck. It is a shortcut! We will get to the food faster," insisted Peggy.

"Yea, food! Let's try it!" said Monkey-See-Monkey-Do.

"Since you put it that way, let's do it. But, if I die, I get to say, 'I told you so!'" I agreed.

"Yea, yea, yea! Let's go!" snarled Peggy.

Yea, yea, yea! Let's go!" sang Jo May.

We easily made it down the four steps. The moving sidewalk was wide and we made it to the end of the sidewalk with no problems. The moving sidewalk stopped directly in front of doors that opened to Cesar's Palace. As Peggy entered the door she stopped cold, Jo May ran into her and stopped cold, and I ran into Jo May. It looked like a scene from an old Keystone Cops silent movie. I heard Peggy say, "WOW!" and Jo May gasp, "Yikes!" The two parted like the sea for Moses and I saw it! A staircase. A golden staircase, but a staircase. Not four steps. A huge flight of stairs with no other route to take. We couldn't go back from where we came. The sidewalk only moved in one direction, and it was packed with people.

As I surveyed the staircase, I started to giggle, "So I am thinking, maybe, this would be the reason that sign said, 'No' let me repeat, 'NO Handicapped Access'. Call me crazy! Where are the half-naked, strong, Roman Cesarian guards when you need them?"

"I bet as soon as they saw us they ran and hid," chortled Peggy.

At that moment four foreign men, asked in broken English if we needed help. They carried me down the golden flight of stairs. I am not light, and my chair is even heavier. The entire time three of the men were swearing at the one that offered the help. I didn't understand what they were saying, but swearing in any language sounds the same.

When we eventually got back to our hotel room and settled into bed, I asked, "Guys, what have we learned from this evening's adventure? The next time we see a sign that says, 'Not Suitable for Wheelchairs' what are we going to do?"

"The same thing we did in Prescott, and the same thing we did San Diego, and the same thing we did tonight," replied Peggy.

"Yep, the same thing," yawned Jo May.

"Yep, the same thing," I sighed as I drifted off to sleep to dream of "Not Suitable for Wheelchairs, Really, We mean It!" signs.

Paco's Perspective

I don't like that chair on wheels. It hurts.

The Flip Side

I like that chair on wheels because your lap is always available.

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