What are some of the obstacles you experience in everyday life? What is the most annoying thing about being in a wheelchair? As we try to prepare one hundred questions that serve as building blocks of our "Tell us your story campaign interviews I wonder how I'd answer these. The answers may surprise you. For me it's not about running or walking, jumping and dancing. It's that many things are literally beyond my reach. Sure, I can ask for help when I need to grab something from the top shelf and I don't mind doing so. But finding a person to ask is often a challenge. Figuring out how to get their attention is another thing. And from time to time their response surprises me. Consider this story from last Saturday night. When a package larger than the envelope arrives here, my postman puts it in one of the larger locked storage boxes and puts the key in the mailbox. He knows that I'm in a wheelchair so he tries to put in one of the units within my reach. Imagine my surprise when I find that my item is for some reason in the very top one. No amount of stretching would work. I waited for a bit, thinking people would be coming back from bars soon. And when I heard voices I'd stop whoever was there to help me. Yes, I could have just go home and ask a friend another day. What can I say? Putting things off like that knowing there are things waiting for me that I can't get to makes me feel really defeated. I really wanted it that night. I saw a group of girls walking by and I asked one if she could help me open that lock. After all we were neighbors. After all it would not even take a minute. She shook her head and said, No, Sorry. See, the worst thing about asking people for help is not that you feel like you can't do things for yourself. Is the fact that they may say no. They have the power to ruin your day. To make you feel embarrassed to have asked in the first place and a bit angry at both yourself and them. Perhaps she was a little drunk to understand what I was saying. Maybe she thought I was asking for change. For a while after I replayed the exchange in my head, thinking what exactly happened. Some 20 minutes later another neighbor was walking down the stairs leaving the complex and I asked again. He had no problems helping although we never had before. Sometimes I wish I could stand up only to reach the things I need. When I was waiting for someone to walk pass our mailbox I was getting frustrated with myself, my mailman, the mailbox for being so mockingly high. For a minute there I even thought about figuring out how to use my Peto training to climb my wheelchair and kneel on it. When I go shopping, the brand of yogurt I like is always on the higher shelf. Quite frankly most people there look like they don't want to be bothered. Trust me, as soon as they come up with a wheelchair that can lift the sit up a few inches I'll be getting one. Perhaps then I could have an eye level interaction with people without them looking down on me. Literally and figuratively, perhaps.
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