A bus comes but it is not our bus. “So, how’s the elbow?” I ask Noree.
“Oh, much better. Mostly heeled. I had to wear this sling for months but I started to see how I’d do without it about a month ago. I just put it back on for the trip. Extra support. And I got extra help that way, which is nice.”
“Oh yeah? Like with your bag?” I asked.
“Yeah, that too. But people were just a little more considerate of a little old lady with a bum arm than they usually are. I got to board early, which was nice.”
I again think of ‘Cancer Perks’ but instead mention my time in a wheelchair. “Yeah, I bet! One time Pat and I went to Disney World and I wore the wrong shoes. I had mountain bike shoes that were much better for riding than for walking. Stiff soled. Inflexible. No arch support. Big mistake. When was that, sweetie?”
“Wow,” Pat replies, “that was when we went with your brothers, right? Pre-kids. Must have been, what? Eighty-nine? Was Julie pregnant?”
“I don’t remember. I think so. In any case I wore the wrong shoes and after the first day my arches collapsed. Pain out the wazoo. That night in the hotel I said there was no way I could go back to Disney the next day. That went over well, of course. We’d purchased multi-day passes, Greg and Steve had flown down from DC and Disney was the highlight of our vacation. So, my loving family insisted that poor disabled me go to Disney. A very concerned, caring lot let me tell you!”
“We had you covered,” Pat retorts. “We figured we could rent a wheelchair at Disney and push him around in that. And we were right. They had wheelchairs and we were able to rent one at what I recall being a pretty reasonable rate?”
“I don’t remember,” says I. “Anyway, I felt a little odd being pushed around in a wheelchair but as far as my foot was concerned it was great. Then two things happened, both of them bad, but one of which taught me a truly invaluable life lesson.
“The first thing that happened was that the Disney folks would not let us stand in line. We’d walk and roll to the end of the line and a Disneyite would come up to us and say, ‘Right this way,’ which made me very uncomfortable. I asked to stay in line and we were told no, that he was to escort special needs, he may have said handicapped, after all this was the eighties, to the front of the line. I didn’t like it but we did as we were told.
“So, that was the first time and I noticed that even though I had been the one who spoke to the attendant the dude talked to Greg, who was pushing my wheelchair at the time, not to me. No eye contact, no utterances to me. He spoke to Greg.
“This scenario got repeated at our next ride and of course by this time my brothers were telling me that I should ride in a wheelchair whenever we go to Disney; that line crashing was great! They were mostly kidding but of course it was one of those, half in jest whole in earnest sort of things? We had discovered the wheelchair perk, the ability to skip long lines by rolling up to them. I felt like a fraud, but, there we were.
“And the attendant not talking to me? Only talking to whomever was pushing the chair? Universal. Ha! Is that a pun? Anyway, everybody talked to the person pushing the chair, not the guy in the chair because, after all, anybody in a wheelchair is incapable of being perfectly sound in mind if not in body; right? I felt like hollering, ‘Hey! I’m down here!'”
“Keith,” Noree answered with a smile, “nobody has ever accused you of being perfectly sound of mind.”
I smile back. “True. But, it did teach me to always talk to the disabled person first. Look him in the eye and talk to him. Even if he can’t talk back he has feeling. He has thoughts. So, I thank Walt Disney World for that terribly important life lesson.”
“I think this is our bus,” Pat says. Pat is correct. She has a history of that.