Like so many who live with ALS, I have weak muscles in my lower legs that limit my mobility. To help me roam through the house, I rely on a walker with wheels. I also use it for covering short distances when my husband and I are out running errands. But one day, after trekking to the back regions of our local Walmart and realizing I’d have to follow the same exhausting route out again, I moaned out loud, “There has to be an easier way!”
“There is,” my husband replied, while pointing to an area near the store’s entrance. “Why don’t you give one of those a try?”
He pointed to a row of motorized shopping carts, but all I saw were large cousins of riding lawn mowers, only with dangling cords and over-sized wire baskets attached up front. “Yuk!” I thought. They looked clunky and slow. My mind raced along – I’m not disabled enough to use one! Plus, I don’t even know how to operate those things! Will other shoppers have to dodge and weave around me? What if I crash?
But in the spirit of keeping a positive attitude, a willingness to try and, frankly, two very tired feet – I decided to sit down in one and give it a go. Bravely, I pressed the green “on” button, squeezed the hand lever and lurched forward at the mighty (pre-programmed) top speed of 2 miles per hour. Looking down, I imagined tiny ants passing me by.
Not only did other shoppers take zero notice of me, I was the one having to dodge and weave – just to avoid their carts!
I discovered that all around me the other shoppers were either totally focused on their cell phones, or stuck in a glassy-eyed stare. No one, it seemed, looked down; a fact noted by store managers who strategically place higher-priced items at the adult eye-level, while sale items and “fun stuff” are at kid-height. From my new lower vantage point, I had quite an entertaining and economical shopping trip!
In the end, I was hooked, and rolling through stores on four-wheels became my favorite way to shop. So much so, that we purchased a small electric four-wheel scooter of my very own. It has several handy features, which include a swivel seat and variable speeds. In a restaurant, I can drive right up table-side, swivel my seat inward and, magically, I’ve brought my own chair!
As for speed, I have the basic 2 miles per hour, plus, I can dial it all the way up to 4.25 – which is considered a zippy speed in the scooter-world. Apparently, someone in the scooter factory thought they’d jazz things up a bit and instead of numbers on the speed dial, the low end features an outline of a turtle and the top speed end outlines a rabbit. Not sure about the humor in that, but, oh, well.
So now all my shopping adventures begin in the parking lot, where I find myself sitting at about eye-level to front grills of large pickups. Not wanting to join the flat bugs already decorating all that chrome, I crank my scooter up to rabbit and make a mad dash to the store entrance. Yes, I know my scooter could have one of those tall wire poles with a little safety flag on top. But living in a community of retirees who are also avid golfers, I worry that one small flag on a skinny pole parading through rows of parked cars might look too much like a new mobile 18th hole. Once again, I hit rabbit and take off; imagining a hailstorm of golf balls in my wake!
If the uncertainty of trying new things and the fear of not knowing how is holding you back, remember that all it takes is the willingness to try. And, like me, you’ll not only open up your world to many new possibilities, but also you can have a little fun with it as well.
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