Look. I know I’m ‘different’. Isn’t everybody?
I’m sure not many people aspire to be disabled, even though, over the years – I have come to be proud to be so. Prouder and happier still to have ‘achieved’ membership of an amazingly resilient and supportive community. Not biased at all, but https://shift.ms is my fave place to hang, of course. I shout out for multiple sclerosis peeps, for everyone disabled, and have even spread my wobbly wings to talking up all things diversity.
Neither am I a shrinking violet about it. As far as wheelchairs can be sexy, I have a funky, eye-catching https://trekinetic.com/ one. It’s racing red and can do about four miles an hour. I like to think of it as raunchy. Very raunchy. But actually it gets more admiring glances from bikers and mechanics. No fan mail whatsoever from Kate Winslet. Bah…
And given I’ve taken it upon myself to shout stuff out – and deliberately get noticed – I can hardly blame people for picking up on my bizarre clothes sense and questionable hairstyle choices.
But minor eccentricities, bad dad jokes and appalling fashion-sense aside, I am normal bloody hell. I am very happily married. We have two fabulous boys who only brush their teeth on bank holidays and who eat too much pizza. I work. I watch crap telly. I live, I laugh, I love. And I cry…
Curious glances and stares from children are fine. Opportunities to educate them sometimes. Chances at least for them to see a wheelchair bloke out, about and existing.
Curious or polite glances from adults. That’s fine too. It’s natural. Particularly as I am frequently mistaken for Daniel Craig.
It’s the ‘adult’ gawpers that get to me. Malicious or ignorant, rude or nosey. Passive aggressive or disdainful. Sod off. SOD OFF! Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I stare right back. Occasionally I make a sarcastic comment and whoever is the self-absorbed prat concerned, looks meaningfully away as if nothing is happening. I’ve never, ever heard an apology.
I was prompted to write this post though after some next-level modern day crassness which stunned even me. I am only bulletproof to a certain degree.
Last week we saw some decent snow. Hurrah! An excuse and an exciting reason to venture out and explore our beloved Dunstable Downs where we’re lucky enough to live. And a funky phwooar-chair to help me go off-road tootling. Out we raced. So far so good.
Problem was, in our glee at escaping into the snowscape, we hadn’t bothered to tinker with my chair. There’s a default ‘upright’ setting, with narrower wheels helping me to negotiate doors and safe, flat surfaces. And an ‘off-road’ tweak. Takes two minutes to spread the wheels wider. And in so dabbling, I am set up to scramble through woodland, over sand, and be safe on snow. The snow I was now on. Oh bugger…
Onto the hillside slope I gleefully whizzed and skidded. And, umm, over I toppled. Almost impossible to achieve had I tweaked the chair in advance. Numpty. Plonker. No harm done. Offers of help from passers by came thick and fast, but we wanted to keep safely, pandemically distanced. And my son is brilliant, strong and more than capable.
Operation fumble-slip-scramble kicked in. On a good day I’ve been known to haul myself up independently. But this was a cold, icy, snowy one. A bad day, or medium at best. My hero Samuel waded in as ever, whilst strangers almost queued, desperate to help. Maybe hoping for a James Bond autograph in the process.
Two minutes of hauling and experimenting in, and we were nearly done. I was nearly safe. Would-be helpers had realised we were just about ok, and had faded back into the foggy afternoon.
Then Samuel spotted him. Fifteen yards away. A bloke with a phone out. Filming us. For TikTok? For Twitter? Oh, how hilarious a viral video that would be. ‘The helpless cripple’.
In the next few seconds I was vaguely back in my Bond-mobile. I turned deliberately to face him with my death stare. I shouted after him, asked if he was enjoying himself? Called him a twat. And just like the starers, he casually but meaningfully swung himself round. Still filming. Pretending to be taking in the non-existent view through the deepening fog.
That’s it really. I don’t know how to conclude this episode. Except to say that the majority of people are lovely. See above ‘people who wanted to help.’ See ‘charities like Shift.ms’. See ‘inventors of funky gadgets which may one day get Kate Winslet’s attention’. See ‘my amazing community’. See ‘my sons’. See ‘my wife’.
But some people are twats, pure and simple. And I have no clue how to address it, let alone fix it. Will keep doing my bit…