The look he gave me was pure disgust. “Do you expect to put THAT,” he spat, pointing to my wheelchair, “Into MY car?”
I stared, not quite able (or willing) to understand. “Excuse me?”
On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)
I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.
“Do you expect to put that WHEELCHAIR in my car by yourself?” he said, “Because I’m not doing it. And you’re not riding in this car.”
Deeeep breath, Cynthia: Be nice to the stupid jerk.
“I don’t think you understand,” I said politely, “I ride Lyft all the time. Twice just today, in fact. The wheelchair comes apart, and fits in the back of your car. I’ll show you.”
“No you won’t,” he said furiously, “I don’t give rides to cripples. It’s not allowed. I’m not a nurse. I won’t accept the medical liability for you. There are LAWS.”
I tried again, explained that I just had a broken leg, I had no intention of croaking on him in the car, but he was adamant: He didn’t give rides to cripples.
“Congratulations,” I finally said, “You are my very first horrible Lyft driver. Nobody has ever refused to carry me or my wheelchair.”
“Then they should all be fired!” He drove off, leaving me stranded in front of the Best Buy.
Gee, and the day had been going so well. I’d had a good day at work, gone to a birthday party for my boss, and bought a new phone to replace my dying Nexus 6p. Now I was fuming as I called The Resident Carpenter to give me a LIFT, not a Lyft.
I’ve probably had a hundred Lyft rides in the last few months; every one of them until now has been stellar. I’ve had drivers offer to take me grocery shopping, pray for me, stop off at the bakery to buy my bread, carry things into my house, wait with me for someone to show up and let me in…wonderful human beings, all. A Lyft driver in Salt Lake City cheerfully shoehorned me, my wheelchair, and my sister into a tiny Ford Fiesta and then offered to give us a driving tour of Salt Lake architecture.
So I know it’s not Lyft. In fact, I called Lyft, explained what happened; they were appropriately appalled and promised to re-educate the driver ASAP.
Hopefully with a baseball bat–ooops–did I say that?
The experience, though, brought home something that’s been bugging me for weeks: The problem with being in a wheelchair isn’t necessarily that you’re in the wheelchair but the way it magnifies unimportant things:
- Getting your wheels stuck between gumball machines in a restaurant.
- A hotel room that promises wheelchair access and doesn’t deliver.
- Couple of guys grab your wheelchair and take it for a spin without your permission…while you’re in it.
- Handicapped bathroom stall that doesn’t quite hold a wheelchair, so that you can’t close the door for privacy.
- Heavy glass doors with handicap access buttons that don’t work.
- Curb cuts too steep to wheel up without tipping.
- Finding yourself all alone, with a dead phone and no way to call for help, on a downtown street.
- A class on the second floor with an inoperable elevator.
None of that is insurmountable. ALL of it is teaching me how to manage life on wheels and keep my independence. I gotta admit, though, I can only handle one or two of those in a day. More than that, and I just pack it up and go home.
Since falling, I’ve encountered hundreds, maybe thousands, of completely wonderful people (like you folks who comment on these posts) going out of their way to help. I’ve had offers of houses wherever I get treatment, offers to donate funds, drive me around, serve as caregivers or respite for my caregivers if it comes to that…I’m just about as blessed as I can possibly be and (thank you so much) truly overwhelmed by the generosity of my fellow humans.
The fact that I was so dumbstruck by that numbskull driver says a lot: Such bigotry is an anomaly, and a rare one. To let it spoil my day is just plain stupid.
Right. Moving on…