A Day In The Chair: Georgia Aquarium

2 Apr

I was hoping to write today’s post about my budget for April.  I made a lot of tweaks to my budget last month, and I was looking forward to announcing the final version today.  However, I am still waiting on a final paycheck to come in, so I haven’t set my budget yet.  Unfortunately, it’s the largest paycheck of the month, so I’m really hoping it comes in the mail today.  While I stare out the window with the dog and wait for the mailman, you all can enjoy this story about my day in a wheelchair.

I woke up today feeling better than I have in weeks.  The congestion in my head and chest are gone, my appetite is returning, and it didn’t take all of my energy to drag myself out of bed and onto the couch.  It would seems all the new meds (mentioned here on last Thursday’s post, if you missed it) are finally kicking in.

The story was different for me on Friday.  Friday was both a good day and a bad day.  Good in that I was able to leave the house for a few hours, bad in that I definitely overestimated my stamina, but good again in that I gained a new perspective on things.

My housemate has a friend named Hawker Lash.  Hawker lives in a faraway land called…. Not Georgia. (Note- it turns out I don’t know very much about Hawker, except that she carries jawbreakers in her purse and she’s cool for other reasons too.)  Hawker was visiting the Georgia Aquarium on Friday, so naturally Housemate wanted to go as well.  I was invited because I have a car and Housemate doesn’t.  Plus, I know how to get to the Aquarium and Housemate doesn’t.

I was feeling all right when we got to the Aquarium.  I really didn’t want to ask for a wheelchair since a) I wasn’t actually disabled and b) people would stare at me.  But by the time we walked from the parking deck to the front doors, I knew I had overestimated myself.  I just didn’t have the energy to walk one more step.  (For those of you who don’t know- the Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world.  There were going to be a lot more steps in my immediate future.)

I sucked up my pride and got the wheelchair from the information desk.  You guys- it opened my eyes. The reactions I got from other people were more interesting than the fish half the time.

At the sea dragon tank, an older gentleman, around 65 or so, asked if he could sit on my lap and rest for a while.  His wife saved me from having to respond and told me that he asks all the pretty girls that question, whether they are in a wheelchair or not.  Later on, outside the tropical reef exhibit, a small girl loudly asked why I was in a “going-chair.”  She accepted my explanation that I got tired and dizzy sometimes with a solemn nod and continued yelling for her Nana.

As I had been afraid of, people did stare at me.  They took in my lack of physical deformities, casts, or medical supplies, and tried to figure out what was wrong with me.  Seriously- you could see it in their eyes.  I didn’t fit their concept of a person who should be in a wheelchair, and it fascinated them.  But you know what?  It wasn’t as bad as I expected.  No on accused me of being lazy or glared at me, not even when Hawker or Housemate (or me, in all honesty) ran the chair into their ankles.  In fact, most of the time the people we hit apologized to me for getting in my way.

The best moment was getting a prime spot here for twenty delightfully relaxing minutes:

Children shown are actual-size. It's a very, very, big window.

The worst moment was after the dolphin show.  Housemate and I stopped off at the bathroom.  The hallway was definitely too narrow for the wheelchair, so I got up and walked.  Inside the bathroom, the line was long and I was tired.  I ignored the germ-phobic screamings of my brain and slumped against the wall.  As Housemate and I left the bathroom, a woman stuck her head out of the door and yelled after us, “so what can we all expect to catch from her?”

Really?  Really??

If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have sweetly replied with the Latin term for botulism (because it would have sounded scary to her at first, and then it would have really freaked her out when she Googled it), but Housemate was quicker on the draw and replied with, “oh, nothing contagious,” adding a quieter but just loud enough, “anymore.” as we walked on.  (Subtle, yet effective- I knew I kept her around for a good reason.)

All in all, it was a very interesting day.  I realized that people have the ability to make you feel either half as tall or half as small with a single look.  To those who smiled at me, held an elevator door, or just stepped aside so I could see better- thank you.  To those who chose to make me feel half as tall as my surroundings- I thank you too.  You made me more aware of how difficult it is to be different.  I was in a wheelchair for a day, but you can bet the lessons will last a lot longer than that.

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