The Life of a Wheelchair
Sometimes I wonder about the life of my wheelchair. It’s been living with me for over four months now, and in that time we’ve gone through a lot. From crashing into a partition on the Toronto subway, getting a flat tire in LA, splashing through puddles in Manhattan, receiving pat downs at airports, sitting in hospital waiting rooms, and navigating the new ramp at the John Candy Box Theatre, we’ve formed an intimate relationship that could be classified as ‘it’s complicated’ on Facebook.
But I wonder what its life was like before we met. After all, it’s a pretty old chair. Old enough that most companies don’t sell its kind anymore. It was collecting dust on the back shelf of a store when I called to rent an electronic wheelchair, waiting for someone desperate enough for mobility assistance to take it home with them.
It wasn’t always old. It probably wasn’t always a rental.
Maybe it lived a full life with someone else. Maybe they went to school. Maybe they travelled. Maybe they never left a care facility.
How did the chair end up becoming an option only available for rent? Did its previous owner not need it anymore? Did they pass away? Did they get a nicer chair? Did they become able to walk?
Did they live alone?
And when they did use the chair, how much did they use it? Was it a full time situation? Did they have carers who helped them transfer in and out? Or were they like me - able to walk in small doses, but reliant on the chair for getting out independently and safely?
What did they wear as a jacket in the winter?
What happened to the chair that made one of its legs crooked? Has it always needed so long to warm up after it’s turned on, before it’s able to move? When did the foam on the arms start eroding? Has anyone else been frustrated by the way the headrest juts forwards?
Did other people take better care of the chair? Were they better drivers?
When was the seat cushion last replaced?
Were other people asked about it by strangers? Did they mind talking about why they used a wheelchair? Were they able to speak?
Did someone love them?
Did other people feel that same rush of freedom I felt when I first drove it? When they felt the wind on their face? Did they have that same giddy excitement when they realized they could move themselves independently, on their own time and volition, from point A to point B?
Has anyone had sex in the chair?
Did other people question their right to its service? Did they feel the need to justify its presence in their lives? Did they see it as a blessing or a curse?
Was their relationship complicated too?