When we first came to Gainesville, my parents bought me an electric wheelchair from a local store before they left. They wanted me to have a sure way for me to get to school and be everywhere on time. I’ve had very little experience wheeling myself around and we didn’t practice the route from my apartment to the university. I didn’t even have the bus routes figured out until the very first day. I resisted using it on day to day basis, but it was like an insurance policy of sorts. But I remember being in it that one day I went out to explore the town a little bit. Then the battery died on me at 1 o’clock at night. I wasn’t really sure what I should do, the chair was heavy and not really designed to be pushed at somebody. I discovered I was able to get a little more juice out of it, by turning it off and on again. I was progressing in small increments… on/off/on, a bit forward until l believe two hours later when I ended up i8n front of my building with no power to go any further. Luckily, someone must’ve called the police and they helped me in. I haven’t used it since. I didn’t want to feel that powerless, figuratively and literally ever again. As slow as I may be, I vowed, regardless of how much earlier I would have to get up in the morning, I will rely on my own body and my muscles. And over time I did get better. In those initial few months my arms got bigger, I’ve lost some weight and I became stronger. The chair started gathering dust, then was shipped off to a storage unit. In my new apartment it ended up rusting on the patio, until we’ve had to throw it out on my last move. And I’m reminded of this story every time someone suggests I get an electric chair. Bus drivers comment on it a lot although they’re not really allowed to make that kind of remarks.
Truth be told I never wanted one, but that’s a personal preference. I know plenty of people who live active, exciting lives riding in those things. I just felt very passive- like the world was only happening around me and I was watching, not fully interacting with it. I like to depend on me. I like to do as much as I can for myself. I choose to retain as much control over my life as I can and I enjoy putting my body to work. I have also never been one of the people who are naturally slender. Having to roll myself for blocks and blocks up the hill makes me sweat and my heart beats faster. In my day it’s probably the only type of exercise I have. And it can be exhausting. I have never seen so many people with weight problems until I moved to America. And I see it particularly with those who use scooters and electric wheelchairs.
And I understand why- they barely move all they long, just sit in one spot maneuvering with a joystick. Bad diet and no exercise can make you really big. I’ve seen people who barely fit in the sit. At least when I get somewhere far and I come back and my arms are sore I get a good feeling about myself. Also, my wheelchair is an active sports model. Made out of carbon fiber and titanium, it’s superlight and cost $4400 when I got it. It was not a cheaper choice than a scooter it was a conscious choice of a lifestyle. Built to my measurements in Switzerland. If I need a ride, taking it apart, loading, unloading and assembly is a breeze. And looking at the state it’s in now, with all the mileage on my tires I’d say I got my money’s worth.