Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Definition of Fun

You say you wish you had a scooter.  You say it looks like fun.  And yes, it can be fun, zooming around campus at a grand 4.5 miles per hour, the wind in my hair, unencumbered by my legs.  But after awhile, it stops being fun.

It stops being fun when a kid who’s texting and walking literally falls in your lap, nearly tipping your scooter, and doesn’t even have the decency to apologize before he walks away.

It stops being fun when it takes five to ten maneuvers just to get out of your dorm room.  And if you don’t do it just right, if you’re even the slightest bit off, you have to start maneuvering all over again, and all the while you’re panicking, knowing your time to get to class is dwindling away.

It stops being fun when the wheelchair accessible desk is tucked in a corner, and every day you have to move it, and everyone looks away uncomfortably, pretending they don’t see you so they won’t have to offer to help you.

It stops being fun when you have to miss class because it snowed overnight, and the paths aren’t clear enough for your scooter to get through.

It stops being fun when you feel like there’s a constant, bright spotlight on your head that will never, ever go away.  When you’ve been reduced to a nickname of “Wheels”, and not once, over nearly three years, has anyone ever bothered to ask you what your real name is.  When professors know who you are before your wheels cross the threshold of the classroom, not because of any great feat you’ve done, but because you stick out like a sore thumb on campus.  And you wish that just one time, you could blend in, be anonymous, just another one of the hundreds of students that attend classes every day.  But you will never, ever get that right to anonymity, no matter how hard you beg, no matter how much you cry.

When you use a wheelchair, you lose your right to be an individual person.  Your entire personality, the entire sum of experiences that makes you YOU, gets distilled down to one aspect of yourself - an important aspect, but only one aspect nonetheless.  People don’t look at your face anymore, only your wheels.  That’s why we all get mixed up with each other - because no one bothers to look at our faces.  Having a (fairly visible) disability isn’t just something you can turn and off at will - that’s why the simulations are screwed up, because you can just hop out of the wheelchair when you’re done and go “Well, that was fun!  Back to reality now!” This IS my reality, and it’s never, ever going away.

So go on.  Keep thinking it’s fun.  I won’t argue with you - that would be a waste of my already limited energy.  But maybe someday, you’ll end up like me.  Due to an accident or disease or just plain old age, you’ll use a chair.  And when it’s no longer a game, you’ll see how “fun” it is.  I hope you’ll look back and think about what you said to me.  Hopefully, you’ll apologize for your ignorance.  And maybe, wherever I am, I’ll hear you.