Sharing Space

bio_dave_hingsburgerWe were down to one elevator. One was being repaired, the other was in service for people moving in. This is a difficult situation under any circumstance in a tall building like ours. Crowds get off and crowds are waiting to get on. I was in my wheelchair, Joe had given up waiting and went to get the car, we agreed to simply meet in the apartment whenever we could get there.

I had let two crowds of people go ahead of me. I was next in line and the lobby was empty. I pulled up towards the door, staying off to the side because, as much as this shocks a lot of people, elevators rarely arrive empty. By the time it was on the third floor and descending I turned to see about 7 people in the lobby. One was a guy that I’d made a comment to about the elevators and he responded by turning away and not responding. It’s amazing how a good looking fellow can lose his looks in second isn’t it?

I know elevators and wheelchairs generally but I really know how to load this one, I’ve lived here for 8 years after all, so I decided to take charge. I turned to face the lobby and noted, with some surprise that everyone waiting was male. I said to them, “OK, guys, the elevator is nearly here and I’m taking this one, I’ve let a lot of other people go on ahead of me. It’s my turn. But here’s the thing, I need to get on last, you need to leave room for me. So the best way to do it is for you to get on first, fill the space to the right and when you’re in I’ll roll in to the space straight ahead of me.” They all looked like they were in shock. I don’t think they expected to be told what to do, and I really don’t think they expected to be instructed by an old guy in a wheelchair. But, I wasn’t having any shit, I know people can’t figure out how to manoeuvre when a wheelchair is added to the mix, and, we needed to get out of the lobby.

The door open. A ton of people got off. The guys started to file in. Surprisingly, it took all of them, and then I rolled on. I called out my number, other people pushed theirs. When we got to my floor first, I was getting off, someone said to the guy who had refused to engage in a brief chat about elevators with me, “Aren’t you on the 2nd floor?” He said that he was, I stopped and said “Are you going to ride all the way up and then get off on the way down?” He said that he was. I said, “I would have got off, I’m on wheels you know.” He said that he didn’t want to bother me? Now I was angry, I clearly am a guy who knows how to get around on a wheelchair and getting off on a floor to let someone off is not outside the bounds of my expertise. “You know, I’m disabled, not selfish,” I said shaking my head. WTF? He’d have had to ask other people to move, and he’d have done that.

I rolled back and he decided that it would be quicker to take the stairs down to his floor, so he got off with me. I just turned and rolled to the apartment. I could feel him watching me push myself.

“You are pretty good in that thing,” he said.

Which was precisely the wrong thing to say.

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