When I was about 14 years old, I lived near a city pool. I would always go to this pool because there were girls there. I didn’t swim, obviously….guy in a wheelchair. I just went there to be around the girls. That sounds a lot worse than it was. It was a good way to hang out with girls, since there was little else to do in my neighborhood. And it was about the only way they were going to take off their clothes for me. Come on now…every 14 year old boy was thinking the same thing.
Let’s get back to our story…
It was a fairly uneventful activity for me to go to the pool and then go home. But this particular day was different.
Something didn’t seem quite right with my chair-mobile that day. It was making some strange noises. Of course, like most drivers I just kept driving anyway, hoping that the noises were just normal “chair noises”.
Luckily, I got to hang out with the lifeguard and the girls and have my daily dose of socialization mixed with hormonally driven girl-watching.
On the way back home, the chair was still making the funny noise…
And then the wheel fell off.
This was in the 90’s. I didn’t carry a cellphone in that decade. As far as I know, there is no roadside assistance or “on-star” for people in wheelchairs. Someone should really look into that.
Luckily, when the wheel came off, the chair landed in such a way that I was still sitting up, but my wheel was gone.
Think of every redneck show you’ve ever seen that has cars in the yard with no wheels, and that’s what I looked like. At least that’s what I felt like. Suddenly, I hoped the girls I came to look at would not be looking at me. I couldn’t bend down to get the wheel, because if I did the chair would tip over and I would be on the ground…in the parking lot. A crippled guy laying on the July Texas asphalt burning to death while girls in bikinis watched. No, I think I’ll just sit here, thanks.
People thought I was just chilling out in the parking lot, and were waving as they drove by, as if nothing was wrong. I know what you’re thinking…didn’t they notice my peril? Maybe Jamie’s happy-face is really similar to his “OMG my wheel fell off face”?
Is this part of his condition? Maybe Jamie’s “hello” wave is really similar to a frantic “please help me I’m dying” wave? How could this be? Maybe we should make one of those facial-expression emotion charts and tape it to his wheelchair?
There’s a good reason why people thought I was just chilling, and it’s none of the things you were probably thinking.
I was sort of smiling…happily. And I was hoping no one would notice the missing wheel.
You see, I didn’t want anyone to tell my parents about my wheel problem in a distraught way. I needed someone who could relay the message as if it was no biggie. Because if they sensed that my coming to the pool to look at girls was dangerous, well… I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore! So, to continue my evil summer plan to hang out with naked girls, I had to break this wheel thing to my parents in the best way possible. So I smiled and waved to unknown passerby and acted as if nothing was wrong.
Eventually a friend from the neighborhood came by that knew me and came close enough for me to point out my situation quietly and I finally got some help with my wheel. Overall, it was great day.
There are a few things you could take from this situation. One is that like most everything else in life, wheelchairs are unpredictable. And stuff just happens. And they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
The second thing you should take from this story, and it’s a point that I’ve made in this book before; Wheelchair or not, I’m just a guy. And my thoughts were about the same as any other boy’s at 14 years old.