A Toast to the Bens
 
   Having a wheelchair has been pretty weird.  It means the difference between being trapped in bed or being able to get out and pick up food or medicine or see people.  It also means encountering the world of things inaccessible to wheelchairs ~ did I tell you about watching someone take a baseball bat to a bart elevator?

  The chair I have was a gift from a strange stranger and it has been an adventure developing trust in this unknown machine.  It was an adventure to pick it up and I was told that the chair only had a half mile range...which is just silly.  During this month (or more?) of exploring with the chair I have been skittish about how far I could go on a charge.  It went for a mile....then I charged it again and it went for a mile and a half....  I kept playing around with it and noted that at about 75% charge (according to the indicator) the chair began to slow down considerably.  Still I wasn't sure if this meant it was going dead...given that the indicator seemed to suggest the battery had charge.  How would I know if the gauge worked at all?  And what would happen if I ran out of juice?  

   So yesterday when I realized I hadn't charged the chair overnight and it had been slowing down the day before...I worried.  I charged it all morning and left with fingers crossed to head to the pain management clinic.  On the way the chair slowed w a y down and I felt more anxious: I plugged the chair in during the appointment.  This was a fairly useless appointment with very little new ideas or info on how to treat my pain.  I only felt slightly shamed by the doctor and was pleased by my own attitude just because I realized I wasn't going to get further help there and that I didn't really care what this doctor thinks.  So I left with some dignity intact.  

   A few blocks into my journey home, the chair began to slow again and I realized I might be learning what happens when it dies.  I kept trucking and when I hit the hill the chair was going much slower than ever before...a crawl.  By the time I was on my street, it started beeping and an indicator was flashing.  Ugh...people were staring and smiling uncomfortably.   I was now committed to pushing the chair to the limit to see if I could make it home.  It slowed to a stop.  I figured I could just push it home.  I released the controls that unlocked the wheels and then suddenly I had this very heavy thing rolling down the hill onto me.  It was very hard to push...especially since the seat just collapsed forward.  I locked the chair back up and in a panic reached out to multiple friends.  

   Everyone rallied around me ~ texting questions and ideas.  Laura called a wheelchair cab and when they were going to take too long offered to come help.  Tyler, who was closer also offered to come so I let Laura off the hook.  Meanwhile I tried turning the chair back on and it went another 20 feet before beeping again.  I found myself at a street corner full of construction.  A worker in a hard hat asked if I was ok and I explained that my chair was failing.  He offered to push me but couldn't go all the way to my place so he just pushed me across the intersection (which was great because the prospect of the chair dying in the street was bad).  From there I kept limping 20 feet at a time.  

   At one point I was letting the chair rest and a fella with a pickup asked if I was ok.  I shared my plight and he said wait a minute and he would push me.  He was getting something from his truck ~ a mug of some beverage.  This was an awkward moment.  We introduced each other (his name is Ben) and I asked if he was having tea...  I also inched my chair another few feet ahead to save him work.  I let Tyler know he didn't have to come and felt bad he had already left.  Ben was muscular and as soon as he started pushing me we joked about this being a workout.  It was at this moment that I smelled that his "tea" was high proof.  We chatted about random things...I learned he likes to call "cute girls" Bunny and decided not to explain to him that I myself am not a girl.  I don't think either of us had the sense we were becoming friends ~ he was just doing something good for someone who needed help.  

   I felt very lucky that there is such kindness in the world.  He was pushing me up hill and I whooped with the fun of it.  Strangers looked on with confusion or curiosity and if I thought they could hear I wanted to say, "Hey look, it's a good samaritan!"  I asked if there was a good deed I could do in the world to pay this forward and Ben said no.  By the time we reached my building, Ben was drenched in sweat.  I handed him one of the weird printed cards I have which say "You are Gorgeous and Amazing"  wishing I had a different card with a non beauty associated compliment but hey... Ben went to refuse the card thinking it was money but then accepted it.  After I coaxed the chair inside my apartment, yet another friend asked if I still needed help!

    I felt such a rush of good feelings (rare these days!).  My helpful friends and the stranger Ben bolstered my faith in the goodness of humanity.  I wished I could introduce all of you to Ben so you could thank him.  But he gave with no need for thanks so now I offer a toast to the Bens of the world!   Huzzah!!