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Published on June 22, 2021

The View from my Seat

When you have one of those Monday Tuesdays

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

It started as a routine Tuesday in the life of this paraplegic.

A little stretching in bed before getting up.

A healthy breakfast of oatmeal and an apple.

A trip to the bathroom for a shower.

There, the day started getting bizarre.

I share the following events of this recent Tuesday to give you an idea of the kinds of challenges those of us in wheelchairs face.

THE FALL

I transfer in and out of my wheelchair between 20 and 30 times a day. I am good at it. In nine years, I have fallen only a couple of times.

This particular morning, however, I violated the most basic rule of wheelchair life: I didn’t have the brakes on. As I was transferring, the chair rolled away, and I fell to the floor.

Climbing into a wheelchair from the ground with legs that don’t function isn’t easy. I am too heavy for my wife, Kelly, to lift me. We were about to call 9-1-1. Luckily, I have some safety bars in the bathroom and, after several attempts, pulled myself back into the chair.

What a start to the day!

THE ARGUMENT

I drove to the drug store.

I park in handicapped spaces that are “van accessible.” These “van accessible” spaces have striped no-parking zones next to them that allow handicapped van owners to deploy ramps so we can roll in and out of the van.

When I came out of the drug store, I was shocked to see a pickup truck parked in the striped zone, preventing me from accessing my van.

The driver was still in the truck.

Now, I have needed handicapped parking for nine years, and almost daily I am frustrated by either the lack of “van accessible” spaces or people not following the rules. But, until this day, I had never confronted anyone.

Politely, I thought, I pointed out to the driver that he was parked illegally. A shouting match ensued.
At some point in the middle of the shouting, the recent senseless road rage killings flashed to mind. So, I rolled away. I would just wait until he left.

He headed for the store entrance, but turned around and, without saying a word, went back to his truck. Apparently, realizing he was wrong, he found a different parking spot.

A small victory.

GAS, ANYONE?

There are few things I hate more that pumping gas into my van. It is not only tiring because of the transfers in and out of the driver’s seat, but it is also scary. I am always afraid that a driver will not notice and hit the ramp … or me.

So, of course, this day I needed gas. I stopped at one station, and the pumps weren’t processing cards. At a second station, just after I exited the van, a woman started putting “out of order” signs on all the pumps.

I was finally able to fill up at the third station.

FINALLY, PROGRESS?

After working up a sweat at the gas stations, I decided some water therapy at my community pool was in order.

My routine includes wearing a flotation device and walking in the pool while placing my hand on the side of the pool for balance.

When I am feeling good, I try to walk without my hand on the pool edge.

In nine years, I have never been able to take more than one step without falling. This day, of all days, didn’t seem to be a day for a breakthrough.

But I tried anyway. Much to my amazement, I walked ... sort of.

I am not sure of the number of steps I took before I fell, but it was at least 5. I was too astonished to count.

Was this real progress that would last or was it just another cruel false hope that those of us with disabilities learn to live with? We are conditioned not to get too excited or dismayed by one day’s change in our condition.

So, I calmed myself down. I must admit, however, it was a wonderful ending to a bizarre day.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)