Monday, May 28, 2012

Rain and wheelchairs.

Weather is one of the major factors I considered when I decided to stay in Florida. It’s warm here most of the time and one of the things I didn’t want to deal with being in a wheelchair is layers upon layers of clothing. They make it more difficult to move, they get caught in my wheels, when I’m in a place that has four seasons I never know if I’m dressed right for the temperature or should I get thicker glovers or something for my face. But with good comes the bad. It tends to pour intensely here in Florida, often without warning and then it just stops and everything dries as if it never happened. Sometimes, like this weekend for instance we have more extreme conditions, like tropical thunderstorms and hurricanes. I got used to these over the years, although during my first Summer here I was prepared to hide in my hotel bathroom until the whole thing blew over. Now I dislike the rain for a completely different set of reasons. It’s been pouring most of the night and all day today with brief intermissions leaving me stranded at my apartment. But think for a second what would happen if I went outside and got caught in an intense rain. When you stand your head gets wet, your shoulder, maybe your upper chest. When you’re sitting down the area that is exposed to water is greater. Your pants are soaked, your hands and arms. Your seat and the entire wheelchair is drenched , meaning that not only the front of your pants is wet, you’re sitting  in all these wetness and your pants are absorbing water from the bottom.  And it happens really quickly. When it’s raining you can’t really wheel yourself that well  either, because when you try to grab the bars they’re metal and slippery and the water is pouring off them. You need a good grip and your hands are sliding right off. Having gloves doesn’t really help,not only because water makes them stick to the surface for a second, but also cause it rains so intensely and they take so much water in that soon I begin to feel rain running down my hands on the  inside. My fear is for my screws and bolts and my wheel parts that are metal. Not only do they get rusty but when they do and they squeak, the wheelchair gives me so much resistance.

You’d think, why not just install an umbrella? That becomes a problem for many reasons. One of them would be finding the right size and the right angle to cover the proper area. Positioning such a thing would be a major  hassle as it would have to be readjusted a lot. I have a sports chair. I have to think really hard about where I put things on it so it doesn’t alter my center of gravity or gets too heavy. A poncho is not a 100% effective. The water still gets in and I have to readjust it and pull it around so I’m covered the most. And then it either gets caught in something or just limits my movements and as you know, I need to move my arms freely. Luckily when the rain stops in sunny Florida your skin and hair dry quickly. Your clothing not so much. And you’re still sitting  in that wet seat, with your back area still getting water. And every building you go into is Air Conditioned- a cold reminder that you’re soaking wet. I really don’t think there is a good solution and often I’m not quick enough to escape it or find shelter. I tend to panic with my hands wet and my wheels wet and water getting everywhere. It used to be a big problem when I had to get to class or to an exam, rain or shine. Years ago, I would have a change of clothes at my law program’s office so I wouldn’t have to sit in wet ones all day. Yes, the Florida weather is treacherous. I guess it makes it a movie night.

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