Funny things happen to me in my wheelchair. Being a quadriplegic I have no use or sensation in my hands. I slip a kind of large insulated cup onto my wrist to lift a can or small bottle of drink to my mouth. I call it my cooler. I was sitting outside of the Treasury Casino one night when a lovely woman came by and dropped a few coins into my cooler! OMG, wheelchair pity, she thought I was some kind of handicap street beggar.
I must have had a look of shock on my face. When people say, “Oh you poor thing.” I just smile and let them hold the door. I think it’s better than ignoring me. Pity is just another form of compassion after all. And sure I had a hoody on, but it was a new $140 Billabong one and my Nikes always look new. Hardly the fashion of street beggars or wheelchair pity. I felt like asking, do I look like a bum lady?
It was after a long day of hospital check-ups, abdominal x-rays and kidney ultrasounds I have to endure each year. I like to drive my power wheelchair downtown to the casino afterwards. It’s an 8km (5 mile) trip along foothpaths and quiet back streets hugging the gutter. I zoom down bicycle paths and cross several bridges. I know the city well and like to go a different way each time to see new things.
We have drive through service liquor outlets. I frequent them, bars and shops along the way to renew my drink, and take photo’s of my journey. Crossing over the last bridge I snaked my way along the river and up into the heart of the city. I made good time and rolled on into the casino heading straight for the sports bar.
Ordered my usual, a rum and coke (pre-mixed in a small bottle) which the girl slipped into my cooler. Rather than have them mess with my wallet I put $50 behind the bar and my drinks come out of that. I could see the roulette tables from the bar. My strategy is to wait for four spins of the same color in a row then bet on the opposite color. After four black in a row I bet $50 on red and it won.
It doesn’t always work but I believe in at least trying to get the odds in your favor. It paid for my drinks. I thanked the girl at the bar for helping me as she took the empty bottle out of my cooler. I phoned ahead for a taxi cab and went outside to complete my journey home. I live a further 50 km (30 miles) from the casino.
It was out on the steet corner backed up against the casino wall, sheltering from the cold night air, when along came my generous donor. Watching up the street for my taxi cab, I heard a clink of metal, and felt my arm wriggle. Looking to my right a beautiful woman stood close before me smiling. Her eyes switched to the drink cooler still on my wrist then back to my eyes.
I peered into the cooler to see around a dollar in small change. Her smile widened with generosity. “OMG, I’m not a street beggar” I said. Her smile vanished and head tilted as if she was confused. “I just had a few drinks and a bet at the casino here. I’m just waiting for my taxi ride home.”
The woman looked over to a tall man standing a few meters from us watching this all unfold. “OMG… I am so sorry how embarrassing.” She said to me in a foreign accent. I said, “No, thank-you, that is very kind of you but I am fine. I even had a win tonight. I greatly appreciate your generosity, but really, I am not poor.”
She asked if I needed help to get into the taxi. The tall man stepped up and slipped his arm around her shoulder with a reasuring hug. They were from Denmark. I explained how we have maxi-taxi’s with a hoist in the back. They lift me in my wheelchair so I can drive straight on in.
I declined the offer to use her spare change toward my cab fare home and she fished it out of my cooler. I suggested giving it to the next person she see’s doing something nice for a stranger. Pay it forward. The wind whipped around the corner as they walked off.
I pulled my hood back on tight and thought of a Sporting Wheelies Association friend of mine. Carmen was sitting in her push wheelchair in the mall with a half full can of Coke between her legs. A guy walking past pushed five cents into it. Carmen is a feisty girl, she tore him a new one.
Next time I go downtown I’ll be sure to shave and wear a tie. Even when I do I still get a lot of wheelchair pity, or as I like to say, wheelchair compassion. It’s nice to know there are still good people in this world, even if they only cross our path for a minute or two.
Images Copyright KC: Luke KC at Flickr