Tomorrow will be one of my first outings since I returned home (physios or doctors don't count) and it's going to be really chilly. This means two things… wheelchair and a blanket. If you've never been in a wheelchair before then I can only say that it's an experience. Your entire view of the world changes.
Firstly, there's the novelty of travelling around at waist height. You end up viewing the world from the level of a ten-year old. This causes you to constantly look up to the people you meet in the street - a very strange feeling. But perhaps the worst part of being in a wheelchair are the looks one gets. Let's forget the odd picture of my fairly small wife pushing round a 5' 11'' male, but people do look at you in a variety of ways. Some stare, small children tend to tap each others arms and point. I guess most immobile people use scooters so you don't see so many wheelchairs around but you soon learn that this is not a wheelchair friendly world.
Despite all the excellent adaptations and the laws that try to make it easier for disabled people to get about, going around town and doing some shopping in a non-electric wheelchair is like a commando assault course for the driver and slightly akin to the Cannonball Run for the passenger. I've lost count of the number of times I've closed my eyes as my protruding leg has nearly smashed into a pillar or clipped the edge of a door. It's dangerous. Eating can be difficult too, as the average wheelchair seems to have a special magnetic capability when it comes to crumbs of food. After a day in town, the seat of a wheelchair can look resemble the baskets of food following the clear up operation of 'the feeding of the 5,000'. It's worse than the cat's food mat.
My second observation is that you soon get cold being wheeled round and that tends to make you more pathetic and waif-like than you really are. This elicits sympathy from elderly ladies and young mothers, which is no bad thing and can be quite comforting. It also makes you appreciate nice warm shops and cafes.
But perhaps the best view from a wheelchair is the number of kindly and thoughtful people you can see that there are in this world. I've had my share of ignorance, rudeness and pigheadedness from people who've let a door close on me when wheeling myself around. I've also been made to wait out in the pouring rain while trying to get into a shop where the doorway is choc-full of immobile women desperate not to get their hair wet and seemingly happy for me and my blanket to get absolutely drenched by a cloudburst. However, overwhelmingly there are so many Good Samaritans in the world who will offer help and support to a total stranger. A short spell in a wheelchair can restore your faith in humanity.
Well, tomorrow I shall have my little outing and enjoy a fresh coffee with friends in the same cafe I've been visiting for 30 years. Then I'll have a quick spin around the German-style Christmas market our town holds each year. It won't be a long outing, but long enough to top up my spirits and give me a glimpse of the normality that I can't wait to reclaim.