Observations of a NulliplegicSubmitted by skrapmetal at 2013-12-14 22:28:25 EST
Rating: 1.83 on 6 ratings (14 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Picked up a Champiot Armpower X on CL the other day. Bicycling was not giving me the upper body endurance that swimming had been in the summer and fall, and now the pool’s too damn cold to swim comfortably. Brought the thing home, did some maintenance/upkeep to make it roadworthy again, added some flashing lights and an orange flag (safety forced, you know) and a storage bag for the lock/repair kit, and a water bottle and bicycle computer. I’ve had it on the roads and trails near my house for a few days now. You sit on the seat and row with your arms and abs/back to make the thing move. Your feet sit in metal trays up front. You steer and row with the handlebars, and there are brake levers operated from the handlebars that brake the rear wheels.
I ride my bicycle around my neighborhood, in the woods, and on the trails nearby. I wave to people who look at me riding, knowing that they’re probably looking because a fat guy on a bicycle pedaling for all he’s worth is something you have to look at. Doesn’t bother me – I like waving to people.
I had never seen a row-powered quadcycle before I found this one. When I went to pick it up and saw it for real, it struck me as interesting. It is kind of a cool machine. I figured I’d get some inquisitive looks as I rode around the neighborhood and on the trails nearby, because a fat guy rowing a quadcycle for all he’s worth is something you have to look at. But here’s the thing: nobody looks. They glance, and then they look away and ignore me. I don’t need attention and that’s not why I was using the thing, but it struck me as odd that nobody seemed as interested in the cool machine as I was/am, or indeed interested in the cool machine at all. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally did. They look and see me sitting in the seat, rowing like a maniac with my legs just flopped there in the holders… they think I’m paraplegic. When they were kids, mom told them not to stare at cripples, and now they look away. That is what it is.
That observation made me wonder: do actual paraplegics who get the same treatment all the time, that is, people they don’t know looking at them, seeing that there’s a wheelchair or something involved, and then quickly looking away to avoid the appearance of staring; do they feel slighted or judged when it happens? Most people don’t want to be stared at. But if strangers won’t even make eye contact with you, it must be disconcerting. I wondered if they get used to it over time. So I asked the only guy I actually know who’s in a chair all the time how he deals with it.
He said he just ignores it, and doesn’t go out of his way to either call attention to himself or try to conceal himself. So, pretty much just what everyone else does regardless of whether their legs work, then. He knows why they look away, and there’s not a lot that he could do about it. The real problem, he says, is that when he wants to meet someone it’s that much harder for him to make the initial connection.
Based on what I’d been told, I thought I’d take my cool machine out onto the trail today and make a point of making eye contact and waving to people as I rowed by. Just to see, you know, what would happen. Maybe they’d still look away and pretend not to see me wave or hear me say ‘Hello’. Maybe it would revert back to “hey a fat guy working like there’s free donuts a mile away, let’s look”. I suppose the initial results were what you’d expect: Kids all waved back, teens ignored, moms and dads hesitantly acknowledged, old people all waved back. Old people know a lot more people in chairs than the average person, I’m guessing.
The coolest thing that happened was when I was stopped at a bench and was off the machine drinking some water, and an actual paraplegic rolled by on a ultralight wheelchair, and he looked at me, looked at the rowcycle, and gave me a glare. A fucking glare. Like I’m not *allowed* to use a machine that mimics a wheelchair or a non-leg-powered cycle if I can use my legs. Like my doing so was some sort of insult to him: “Dude I have functioning legs and I so take them for granted that I’m not even bothering to use them! You don’t have them and I won’t give you mine! Ha! But that’s just how I roll, dawg... HAAA!” Whatever, glaring chair guy.
I noticed when glaring chair guy rolled by that I unconsciously tried to look away quickly so as not to seem to stare, but then I looked back again and made eye contact because I thought doing so would demonstrate how I’d stepped toward being able to see a person in a chair rather than someone too different to chance dealing with. Didn't matter - I got glared at anyway. Maybe he just got out of rehab after the spinal injury and he’s still bitter. I could make up a story. I could ask him, but he’d already rolled away and there was no way this fat guy could row fast enough to catch him, so it stays with ‘whatever, glaring chair guy’.
I asked my acquaintance in the chair if he feels that way about things like able-bodied people playing wheelchair basketball or whatever. He said he resented it when he first had to be in the chair, but after a while he realized that someone not making use of faculty they have is not an insult to someone without that faculty. It’s just basketball in a chair.
The Champiot Armpower X is a very nice upper body workout, and you get to see the scenery along the way. I will use it as long as my fat ass can make it move and perhaps if you see me on the trail you’ll wave back at me and realize that a fat guy exercising for all he’s worth is something you have to look at even if he’s not using his fully functional legs.
Executive Summary: Don’t stare at chairfolk. Do look at them. Say hello, maybe.