Category: disability

Sharp Dressed Man

I have never liked “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. Frankly I’ve never really cared much for ZZ Top. It’s not their fault. It has less to do with “Sharp Dressed Man” than with a string of similar-sounding 1990’s country songs. It’s hard to explain.

Maybe I don’t like “Sharp Dressed Man” because I myself am not a sharp dresser. The song doesn’t speak to me, I guess. I doubt that I hate the song so much that I’ve adopted non-sharp dressedness as a lifestyle.

It’s not that I don’t like dressing in nice clothes every now and then. I flat-out refuse to tuck in a shirt and no one can make me though. I fold it in such a way to make it look tucked in. But I’m in a wheelchair. I shift around a lot. A tuck tends to be impermanent when you’re in a wheelchair. I’m not a slob or anything. It’s just that “unwritten rules” in general confound me. That includes the unwritten rules of sharp dressedness.

I’m not going to run around in sweatpants and a polo shirt or anything like that. I did, one time, wear a gray cardigan sweater with a neon green collared shirt underneath which I called my “Mr. Rogers at a rave look” though. The “rules” just strike me as more than a little subjective.

You’re not supposed to wear black pants with brown shoes – something I am not at all ashamed to admit I just became aware of a few weeks ago – but you can wear dark navy blue pants with brown shoes all you want even if the pants are so dark navy blue that they might as well be black. But you simply mustn’t wear black pants with brown shoes. Unless the shoes are a certain shade of brown in which case it’s okay.

What makes it okay? What shade must they be? No one knows.

Conversely, if you are wearing brown pants, then black shoes are fine. You don’t see a lot of navy blue dress shoes walking around. You sure as hell aren’t going to wear brown shoes with brown pants.

You know what I do? I wear black pants with brown shoes. I’m not going to wear my black shoes with my black pants. I’m going to work, not a funeral. I have some light colored grayish shoes but I rarely wear them to work because they make me feel like I’m about to get on a yacht or something. I suppose that is my hang-up, though.

And I will never understand why a certain colored shoe is forbidden with a certain colored pair of pants, but there is a different set of “rules” governing the wearing of certain colored shirts vis-a-vis pants. And while that second set of “rules” makes more sense to me, overall I’m probably hopeless. Thankfully I don’t care at all what “every girl’s crazy” about. I only care about the opinion of one “girl” and she’s my wife. She tolerates me. She encourages me to do what feels right when it comes to clothing. She probably has to fix my collar before we leave in the morning a little more often than she should have to (I swear I’m not a slob) but otherwise she understands I gotta be me.

If you’re looking for a freelance writer who will break the “rules” that need to be broken, I’m your man.

The Summer of My Discontent

Something weird has happened this year. I know you’re probably thinking “Umm, yeah a lot of weird has happened this year, man. Keep up.”

No, not that, but it’s probably related to that to some degree. What I am talking about is that for the first time in my life that I can think of, I can not wait for winter to start.

Maybe it is because of COVID-19 and the havoc it has brought on our economy and the over-all limitations imposed upon our everyday goings and doings. But it is also because it feels like this is the hottest summer in the history of mankind. It isn’t, I don’t think. But I am tired of the humidity, a.k.a. “the air you can wear.”

I’ve already told my wife that when it snows, I am going to go “play in the snow” and I swear I will. I am not going to build a snowman. I intend to frolic. I had been saying I did not want snow. Just cold. I always say my wheelchair is allergic to snow. The more I think of it though, I’m not picky. If there is one thing I’ve learned this year it’s how to stay home if need be.

I’m finding myself getting excited, anxious for winter. I sometimes catch a glimpse of the calendar and I’m dumbfounded that we still have a third of 2020 to go. It really feels like winter should be any day now.

I envision hunkering down in a quiet country cabin in front of the fireplace (because you can’t stay cold all of the time), a refrigerator well-stocked with apple cider or hot cocoa-making supplies (depending on my mood), sitting at a giant oak desk (a brobdingnagian fortress of a desk) with an olde-timey quill pen and parchment paper, and a hefty list of freelance writing projects to work on.

I’m kidding. I don’t have a cabin.

But apart from the things about our society that need to change forever – which this whole year was a chance for us to do – like most of us, I would like to pick up where I left off in the early spring. Enough lamentation though. When I go frolic in that first snowfall, I’ll be taking the opportunity to embrace what was previously repellent to me. I’m well on my way to accepting whatever this winter will bring.

In My Right Mind

Did you know that in baseball, a left-handed pitcher is called a “southpaw” because traditionally ballparks were built so the batter faced east? Hence the pitcher stood with his left paw toward the south. It kept the sun out of the batters’ eyes mostly. It didn’t help the pitcher any.

But I talk about baseball enough on this blog.

The technical term for left-handedness is “sinistrality” which, if you think about it, sounds like some generic deviant behavior. You couple that with the realization that left is the opposite of “right” and you might end up with a complex.

So it is nice that there is an International Lefthanders Day. It is today, August 13th. Mostly it is an opportunity for the left-handed to lament how writing with a pencil or pen always leaves their words smudged and the side of their hand all leady or inky.

To put a positive spin on things, International Lefthanders Day also gives us a chance to enumerate the many notable public figures who are/were lefties. It helps us to feel not so…you know…ten percent of society. Maybe we’re insecure and we need to be able to tell people “Hey, look! so-and-so is left-handed, so I could be a famous such-and-such one day too, you know!”

I used to just say “Well I’m left-handed so that means that I’m in my right mind,” a reference to each hemisphere of the brain controlling the opposite side of the body. Not only is the division of labor between the left and right brain at least a bit muddy, but I already told you how I feel about the implications of the word “right” in all of this.

Lefties do tend to be more artistic, creative dreamer type people, and righties tend to be more technical, analytical thinkers. But technical and analytical do not necessarily equal “smart”, and blanket statements like those can never be entirely accurate anyway. It’s like saying “girls are smarter than boys” or vice versa. You say it enough though, and some might start to believe it. And when left-handed kids start to realize how few of them there are in the world, they might start thinking there is something wrong with them. And there is a point in your life when being “unique” is a small consolation.

I was born with spina bifida. My parents were told early on that as a bi-product of the condition, I’d likely have difficulties with math and other analytical brain function, which proved very accurate. You take that, along with my left-handedness and it is no surprise that I became a writer and not an engineer or something.

There are a ton of other well-known mini-annoyances associated with left-handedness. Some things are just made for the 90%. It’s a fact of life for lefties. You learn to work around those things. In short, you get creative. Or, to put it another way, it’s a good thing you’re in your “right mind.”

How To Crash Your Wheelchair Like a Boss

A few weeks ago I “almost” had my first wipe out in “the company vehicle” (my new wheelchair). Today I had my first actual one.

I hit something with my front caster and the whole chair stopped. I fell forward and had no choice but to somersault onto the pavement. My wife held my chair and I got right back up and we carried on.

She said that even though she knew I was crashing, and it happened too quickly for her to do anything about it, a part of her wondered why I was doing a somersault while we were taking a “walk” around the block, just to be a goofball.

To anyone reading this who is concerned for my safety, you needn’t be. My wife spent many minutes afterward marveling about it being “the most well-orchestrated crash” she’d ever seen. I’ve had plenty of practice over the years and even though its been a few years since anything like that has happened and I had no intention of crashing today, when I did, something kicked in from previous experience and I took action with precision, almost by muscle memory, in order to crash in the way that I know to be least likely to lead to calamity.

So I submit to you, how to crash like a boss:

  1. You’ve hit a bump or a crack or a pebble or whatever. You’re going to fall. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. Might as well make the best of it. You have to stick out your dominant hand to break your fall.
  2. The secondary reason it has to be your dominant hand is that arm has to be strong enough to at least very briefly support your entire body. If you are in a wheelchair because your legs are paralyzed, you are merely protecting them right now. While you fall out of the chair, it may very likely begin to slide out from underneath you which could easily lead to your entire weight falling down on top of your legs if the scenario unfolds wrongly. So you have to momentarily have that other hand available to deal with that possibility.
  3. It can also only be the one arm you plant down because now that you are doing a handstand with your butt in the air, your legs are now in a free flop. You have to get a hold of them with the other arm.
  4. Then you have to make a decision based on your individual ability and the position you are currently in. Do you bring yourself down on the shoulder of your dominant, planted arm, or do you tuck (your neck) and roll? I’ve been known to do either one in a pinch but if possible, I think the shoulder is the safer way to go. Generally speaking, unless you really hit something hard and your whole person went goes flying ass over teakettle, you don’t need to somersault and probably shouldn’t. Just be sure to not let all of your weight come down on your elbow. You have that padding in your shoulder for a reason.
  5. Immediately after, you have to be careful to let your legs touch down gently without banging or getting scraped on the pavement. Depending on the surface you’ve fallen on be careful with any and all bony parts of your lower body when you momentarily are left sitting there, and when you are sliding yourself back into your chair. It can be a humiliating experience, though I’ve learned to laugh it off. But your instinct is probably going to be to get back in your chair as quick as possible. Make sure your arms and legs and back and head and neck and everything are all where they should be first.
  6. Bring the chair back behind you, and secure the brakes. If you don’t have them, if someone is with you please have them hold the chair. If you have neither, roll it up against a curb. If nothing else roll it up against whatever you hit that made you crash in the first place.

Keep in mind this all happens within the blink of an eye. It comes with practice. Though I do not hope this happens to you a lot, it happens to some of us more than people think. So we get a lot of practice, and thankfully know how to deal with it safely. I am not as agile or physically resilient as I used to be so I am grateful that I am able to at least do this in such a well-orchestrated way.

Keep rolling, my friends. Be well and take good care of yourselves.