One of the hardest things about being disabled, at least for me, is the fact that I am a complete shut-in during the winter months. My mobility scooter is put away once the rains begin, and it doesn’t see the light of day until the spring sun peeks out. Don’t mistake me, I do get out during the winter, normally when someone picks me up to take me to teach my classes, minus the mobility scooter, and minus the independence I feel when I’m zipping about town on my own.
Today marked my first day out on my mobility scooter on the most beautiful day of the year thus far. My neighbor kindly pulled out my scooter for me, dusted off the cobwebs and shined it up a bit. Along with my usual tremors that come with Parkinson's, I was shaking with excitement as I packed my bottle of water, my ID, cell phone and house keys into the pouch which hangs from one of the arms of the chair. I was a little frustrated because I couldn’t zipper the pouch closed, it just wouldn’t budge. But I truly didn’t care at that point, because nothing, not any obligation, responsibility or the wet weather would stop me from my first Spring Trek.
I hopped onto the scooter (and I say that figuratively of course, because I can’t hop anymore), pushed the throttle with my thumb and off I went. My first destination: the corner of P Street. The owner of the house on that particular corner grows a large variety of fragrant and colorful flowers that I have been enjoying for the past seven years since moving to Midtown. My heart pounded as I saw the colorful array of flora from a distance, and as I drew closer the aroma filled my senses and I was in heaven. Bright purple, blue, green, orange and yellow surrounded me, and I slowed my speed to take it all in. I breathed deep and it was as though it recharged my spirit, because I felt so incredibly alive. However, accompanying the floral beauty, was the buzzing sound of bees doing what they enjoy doing, which is to scare the living heck out of me. If you know me, you know that I am terrified of bees. No, I am not allergic, it’s just an irrational fear that usually leaves me screaming and flailing about…most embarrassing indeed. So once I saw my buzzing friends, I moved further down P Street.
I found the sidewalk bumpier than last season; lots of cracks and potholes. I was concerned that my keys, ID, cell phone and water might fall out of my pouch since I was unable to zip it up, so I thought I’d ask the first person I saw walking down the sidewalk for assistance. In my experience, I have found strangers to be quite helpful to me when I am in need of something. Some are very gregarious and willing to help with anything, others are a little shy and nervous, but are still willing to offer a hand.
In any case, the large fellow who was approaching me on the sidewalk whom I thought I would ask for help, appeared as though he either just got out of jail, escaped from jail, or should be in jail. I don’t normally judge people for how they appear, or by the mean look on their face, but I ‘ll be honest, this guy looked scary. He had on a black leather vest, torn up T-shirt, worn out dirty jeans, and big black boots. I don’t think I can accurately describe how he smelled - sort of a cross between teenager B.O. and fermenting kimchi. He had an enormously huge, bushy beard, too. He looked like he was either in some biker gang, or a rogue Chassidic Jew. “Excuse me, sir,” I said in a timid voice. He stopped, and raised two thick eyebrows. “Would you mind zipping my pouch closed? It’s stuck,” I continued. Without saying a word, he grabbed the zipper and forcefully yanked it shut. I thought he was annoyed that I asked him for help until I felt his hand on my shoulder. I looked up at him and saw a wide, yet a toothless, smile. “Is there anything more you need, little lady?” He asked with almost a song in his voice. I returned the smile, laid my hand over his and simply said, “Thank you, no, I’m fine now.” He nodded his head, wished me “a wonderful day” and was on his way.
Along with the beautiful sights and smells of spring time, are all the beautiful people as well, no matter how scary they look, or smell. I love these kinds of encounters. I tuck them away in my heart, and pull them out during the winter months when I rarely see a soul.
I scootered ‘round town for about an hour, just cruising along on my own, taking in the life that surrounded me. Many people said hello to me, people I didn’t know who seemed to be just as happy to be outside of their houses I was. I met a young man named Francisco, who was playing his guitar in front of his apartment building. I stopped and listened awhile, and he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I believe he appreciated the audience. Moving on down the road, I found myself being chased by a crazy Chihuahua, whose owner was frantically running after him. “Paco! Paco! Come!” I heard the owner shout. I stopped my scooter and the owner of the diminutive canine scooped him up into her arms and apologized. Once the shivering, bug-eyed creature calmed down, he let me scratch him behind the ears.
I turned down the street which would lead me back home and enjoyed the final minutes with the wind in my face, the warmth of the sun that my back and the quiescence of the flower gardens I passed. My first day out was joyful, relaxing, and gave me a sense of freedom, and I look forward to the many adventures that the warm months always offer.