Friday, October 31, 2014

A Scary Scooter Story


This is a scary story about fear and dread.  No, it's not another Halloween story.  It's an adventure story.  A silly story, really.

Last weekend, The Husband treated me to a weekend at Rehoboth Beach for the Sea Witch festival.
Sea Witch Balloon
"Oh dear, is the witch that scary?" Nah, the Sea Witch is actually the name of a really fast clipper ship that navigated Delaware waters, and a clever woman developed a way to bring people to the shore after Labor Day by blending this nautical theme and Halloween into a huge festival.   But there is a really scary Sea Witch balloon in the costume parade.

What was scary about this story is that I chose to take my scooter.  You see, we used to walk a lot.  For years, we did weekly Volksmarches, organized fun walks of 5-10k.  We went all over the US for conventions, we walked state capitals, saw amazing out-of-the way places, met interesting people.  We racked up miles and events, and even popped up to Toronto for a weekend to do two walks.  As I got weaker, however, we switched from 10k to 5k walks.  Then I developed foot drop/foot flop, increasing fatigue, and loss of coordination.  We went on our last Volksmarch two years before I went on disability.

The loss of my ability to Volksmarch was hardest on The Husband.  It was so fun and meaningful to him. So, knowing that some Volksmarches are wheelchair friendly, I suggested that we do the Sea Witch Volksmarch, but I would use my scooter.

Here's where the scary part comes in.  I've never used my scooter on a Volksmarch before.  I know
from friends that "accessible" can be a misleading term, so I was concerned about the route.  What if it took us on the beach, what if winds had created little dunes in the parking lot?
All that chatter that the brain generates to derail me was in high gear.

The last time I used my scooter for a fundraiser on a flat track, it was horrible.  The cement path had deep ruts between the slabs that led to bone crushing bumps.  I was so sore afterwards, and yet it was "accessible."

Also, I used my scooter once, and fell over.  But I ignored the manufacturers guidelines (no passengers) and had a step-grandchild with me (who just couldn't walk any more).  He decided to pull on the steering bar sending us into a sharp acceleration and a tight turn on a slight hill and we flipped over.  So the specter of falling over remained with me.  Plus I had never stress-tested its battery.  What will happen if it runs out of juice earlier than anticipated?  Will the battery hold its charge even if it's cold?

All sorts of other doomsday scenarios kept running through my mind, just because this was something new.  "Just something new" is the same as "The Unknown."  What's more scary than the unknown?

Of course, the outcome of this story is predictable to you, I'm sure.  Everything worked well.  There were a few problems - no ramp from the starting area to the boardwalk meant we had to figure out an alternative route, which was not marked.  People with strollers insist they have the right of way and are free to come to a dead stop with no warning.  Large puddles blocked some curb cuts; I had to ride out on the street when sidewalks were not too friendly. Crossing streets was frightening, but once I got The Husband to understand that I was scared, he was helpful in getting me across.  I successfully completed a 5k Volksmarch!

I'm pleased that assistive technology enabled me to participate in an activity that I had to give up long ago.  Now, it's not so scary.  And I have a much greater appreciation and respect for people who use wheelchairs and scooters in the real world.  This experience will help me be a better disability advocate, I think.

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