I am SICK TO DEATH of bumming rides. (Okay, I know it’s a cliche’, but I can’t think of anything original. Fellow writers, help me out here.) Since I don’t drive, I’m forever asking favors. Do you mind and could you please take me to the drugstore/grocery store/doctor’s office? With my mother recovering from an illness and also unable to drive, it’s really starting to wear on me (yes, another cliche’.) One thing I’ve learned being disabled, people genuinely want to help. It makes others feel good. It makes me feel like an eight year old in tights being chauffeured to gymnastics.
I’ve tried relying on the public transportation available to me. If you’ve read my memoir excerpt “Riding the Short Bus.” you know I occasionally ride JTA’s door-to-door bus service for the disabled. It has some shortcomings. If I schedule a 10:00-10:30 a.m. pick up to go to Publix, the earliest I can schedule a ride home is 12:00-12:30 p.m. I could be shopping by 10:15 a.m., but not be home until 1:00 p.m. or later. Better not get ice cream.
If you’re beach bound only, there’s also Dial-A-Ride. I experimented with that service last week. First, there was no answer. This did not bode well for Dial-A-Ride. Or for me. Then, though I had called the required 24 hours in advance, they were all booked up. When I picked a different day, they told me what time I would be going shopping. I had to be available all day. Hey, I’m disabled, right? I have nothing better to do.
So, when I wanted to take Frankie to visit my mom, none of these options were acceptable to me. Not JTA, not Dial-A-Ride, not a friend. Anyway, I can’t take Frankie on public transportation unless I pass him off as a service dog and that’s a whole other story. I decided to take the power chair.
I’ve taken it lots of places before. To Walgreens, Peterbrooke, my chiropractor. Basically, anyplace within a half mile. I can get to any shop or restaurant at “the corner” (of Atlantic and First Street) in my neighborhood. But I’ve never taken Frankie anywhere except for a walk. I decided it was doable. He could sit on my lap. It would be an adventure.
This adventurous streak dates back to my childhood. My mother tells the story of me wanting to walk our Collie, Lady, by myself to the local strip mall, when I was much too young to do so. But she let me (another reason I always think I can do things.) I took off proudly with a dog that outweighed me by 50 pounds, my mom following us the whole way, hiding behind pine trees. I was five.
As an adolescent forced to move to a different neighborhood, I would pack a lunch and a book on a Saturday and bike the 15 or so miles back to familiar ground. I took a girlfriend once and neglected to mention the distance. She thought I was crazy.
In my twenties, I biked Europe alone for almost six months. Everything I took was on the bike. I stayed at campgrounds and youth hostels. The freedom of it appealed to me. I was like a turtle, my home on my back; in my case, my bike. Nowadays, my power chair is my bike. I need to feel I can still take off. Accomplish something without any help.
So, off we went in the cool, early morning hour, a water bowl and supplies in a bag hanging off the head rest. At first, Frankie walked and was thrilled about it. We were going a different way! New sights! New sounds! New smells! When on my lap, he sat and stayed put nicely. He’s good at balancing.
Aside from a brief masturbation episode (visualize a dog humping thin air,) which took place on the corner of A1A for all of morning traffic to see, the trip was without incident. I guess Frankie got bored waiting for the light to change. I wheeled in my mother’s door feeling very proud of myself indeed. But don’t worry. I may like to be independent, but I still need my friends. In general and for ice cream.