They’re boring, slow, and only for old people!
That’s what I told my husband when he first suggested that I consider using a mobility scooter.
Like so many who live with ALS symptoms, weak muscles in my lower legs limit my mobility. At home, I rely on a rollator, but when out and about I needed an alternative mode of transport to cover the longer distances. So, we bought a four-wheeled mobility scooter. Four years later, I can’t imagine life without it!
My scooter is fun, can go pretty fast, and doesn’t make me feel old at all. All that driving has taught me to expect the unexpected and be prepared to laugh. I’ve also collected numerous tips and stories; I’ll share a few of these with you here.
Always have a Plan B
My scooter rides along in our accessible van and I easily drive it out and down the van’s automatic ramp. Our method works quite well in the wide, accessible parking spots near the entrance of stores and shopping malls. But those spots fill up quickly, so we go to our Plan B.
This system entails looking for a large empty area usually found in the section farthest from the entrance. We park the van, unfold the ramp, and I ride my scooter to our shopping destination.
My husband and I take bets on what we’ll find when we return. I call it, “parking lot static cling,” because 50 percent of the time we return to discover that despite all of the open space, a car has parked right next to us! The owner has, obviously, ignored the stickers on our van’s windows proclaiming: “Wheelchair accessible vehicle — ALLOW 8-FOOT CLEARANCE.”
For a brief moment, I imagine taking no notice of the car and activating our ramp, letting it unfold into the backseat of the offending vehicle — demonstrating precisely what 8 feet is! But it’s a passing thought.
Instead, I scooter on over to a nearby open area and wait for the van to come to me. The ramp unfolds, we load ‘er up, and drive off while sharing a laugh at humanity’s peculiarities.
How to make a grand entrance
I love entrances with doors that open automatically. They let me blend right in with other pedestrians and enter without much ado. The entrances with manual-opening double doors try my patience, especially if the doors open to a small foyer with a second set of doubles. It used to happen all of the time: Once I make it into the tiny foyer, I’m stuck without room to move in either direction.
Now whenever I see the dreaded double-door dilemma waiting ahead, I hang back and wait. Invariably, a restaurant staff member or a helpful bystander will see us and join my husband in holding open all four doors.
I drive through with ease while extending thank-you’s to all, but not without adding a bit of levity to the situation. I do my best impersonation of the queen mum’s wave and call it “nobility mobility.”
My waiting game
When finished shopping, I wait for my husband while he goes through the checkout line; but exactly where to wait has been a challenge.
Chalk it up to another quirk of human nature.
Earlier, while riding through the store on my scooter, I felt invisible to the other shoppers who seem focused on their cellphones, lists, or searching for the right aisle. I have to avoid them running into me!
But if I happen to be near the entrance, suddenly I’m seen!
For example, I’ve tried waiting near a display of sale items, but store staff kept asking if I needed help. Next, I moved to an area just outside the entrance. Several concerned shoppers stopped and asked if I required assistance. I even briefly considered waiting just inside the store entrance, but that area was reserved for the store’s official “greeter.”
Finally, I found what I thought was the perfect spot to wait and not attract attention. It was near the entrance, next to a wall, and behind a tall plant. I suppose the image of a woman off to one side, sitting on a mobility scooter and peeking through greenery, could look suspect.
An elderly man sauntered up to me, and smiling broadly, asked, “Saaay, are you the speed police? Making sure we don’t push our carts too fast?”
Fortunately, another ALS symptom — slow speech — prevented me from making a snappy-dappy comeback. I merely smiled and made a mental note to continue my search for a better spot to wait.
Every trip with my mobility scooter is an adventure for me — and a reminder to live (and laugh) well while living with ALS.
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