Let’s Talk About The Chair
By: Connor Lenahan
Even though theres a decent chance that if you see me in person you’ll see me in the chair I don’t like to focus on it too much. That isn’t to say I don’t like that I have it – much the opposite, living in a city would be beyond impossible for me to do without the chair. No, it’s more that I don’t like to be thought of as “the guy in the wheelchair” but rather as the guy who has been able to work his way out of the chair.
Frankly it’s something that I have had personal struggles with for as long as I could remember. The struggles admittedly aren’t the worst, but it’s a bit tough to be quickly categorized by something that helps me. I need the chair to help me around, but the chair is not me. If this site and my random interests on it hopefully show, there is a lot more to me than simply having the chair. It can get slightly tiring to be seen as helpless, you know? I appreciate the kind gestures that people, strangers especially, will extend my way, but as someone that is stubbornly independent it simply feels good to be able to complete a task on my own.
However, there is a catch to this. For as much as I’d like to associate myself with the walking man I am indoors I still do need help with some things. The chair exists, and so does my need for a ramp or an elevator most places. For as independent as I am I still rely upon friends and family to make these concerns as invisible as possible. My Dad and I have an unspoken code for how to approach rough terrain in the chair. My brothers reflexively help me with anything they know I wouldn’t be able to handle.
This kindness means a lot. And frankly, it’s the norm. It’s heartwarming for people to help me at all. The fact that I have people around me that are as helpful as they are is terrific. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. When someone knowingly makes my life harder with the wheelchair it is more aggravating than anything I can think of.
Here’s the situation: Earlier today I was walking to Target to do some grocery shopping. Someone had parked a pickup truck directly in front of the handicapped ramp for the sidewalk in Kenmore Square. For those unaware, this is the busiest intersection in the city of Boston. Not only did this person park illegally, but they blocked off a massive group of people. When I had to hop a curb to get up I briefly lost my temper. I turned to the car and told them to move their car.
The passenger in the back then lowered the window to taunt me. “What do you want to do? Cry about it?” This is fairly close to a direct quote.
I do not like getting mad. I try to be mild mannered as best as possible. But for the next hour, and the rest of the day this has been stuck on my mind. I wish I hadn’t gotten as upset as I had, but come on. This is as offensive as anything. Who in the hell would openly taunt a visibly handicapped man when they are struggling to get around a car blocking the sidewalk?
I’m sorry, but I need to vent this bit: If you knowingly do not help someone in physical need then you need to fix this. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but there’s some basic bit of humanity that says that we help those that cannot help themselves. Don’t block the sidewalk. Don’t walk four to the sidewalk. Hold the elevator for someone on crutches. This isn’t hard, and it’s much better to do something nice than to not.
I really wish this was an isolated incident today but it’s not. Truth is that there are a lot of people out there that have been disrespectful to me because I need minor accommodations. And I’m easy to accommodate. That’s the tough part. I’m blessed that my Osteogenesis Imperfecta is as mild as it is. I’m thankful for every safe step I can take. There are thousands upon thousands that have to suffer through worse than I do.
I keep hope that the world will get a little better with time, and I stand by that hope. I really would love if today was just a crazy story, and anomaly down the road, of some jackass that taunted a handicapped man.
Sorry for venting, and thanks for listening.