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Trying to Travel the Road Less Traveled
November 5, 2013
Four blocks west and I’m out of my neighborhood. Two blocks north and I’m at a major east–west road. Another three blocks west and I’ll be at the restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. Except…
I’m not walking and I’m not driving. I’m riding a mobility scooter and the major east–west road is being repaved. Which is OK, since I ride my scooter on the sidewalk. Except…
The road crews have moved the barrels and barricades that were blocking the lanes on the road onto the sidewalk so the asphalt machine can do its thing. Carefully, I maneuver around the barricades and barrels, going onto grass/parking lots/anything I can to get to the first cross street. Which I would have crossed, except…
There was a ditch dug down the center of it.
Luckily, a nice man from the road crew came to my rescue, leading me onto the freshly rolled asphalt so I could get to the sidewalk on the other side.
The next two blocks weren’t as bad as the last, but my friend, who had come from west of our meeting place, had to park at a fast-food joint on the other side of the major east–west road from the restaurant, which she couldn’t figure out how to reach.
Lunch was great, filled with food cooked on the premises and filled with…OK, I’ll say it — gossip. The catching up on mutual friends type of gossip.
After lunch? Sigh. I needed to go to the wireless store, the bank, and the grocery store. The wireless store was another four blocks west. The crossroad beside the restaurant had a ditch dug down the center, the curb cut appeared to be blocked, and the sidewalk was, again, cluttered with barricades and barrels.
So I went to the next street north, which was in a, um, less prosperous neighborhood than those south of the major road. Sidewalks were cracked and, as I found out the hard way, just because there is a curb cut where you got onto the sidewalk doesn’t mean there is one at the next street.
Curb cuts were also few and far between when I headed south from the wireless store to get to the bank. And I really hate getting onto a sidewalk, only to have to turn around and get back off when I get to an alley or cross street and there is no corresponding curb cut. So I drove on the edge of the road. A very heavily traveled road. Praying, “please don’t hit me; please don’t hit me.”
There’s a reason you don’t see many of us out and about: We can’t find a bathroom and we can’t get from here to there.
What did people do before curb cuts, which first appeared about 40 years ago? Wait a minute. I know: People in wheelchairs were taught to go off a curb backwards. I had a good friend who was paralyzed in a swimming accident when we were teenagers. Several years later, he was on his way home from work one day and hit a pebble or something as he was going off the curb. His wheelchair tipped, he hit his head…and it killed him.
That happened just a couple of years after I stepped into a curb cut I wasn’t expecting, fell, tore up a pair of stockings, broke a camera — and cursed the blamed thing. Sometimes the lessons that life teaches you aren’t pleasant. For lack of a curb cut, I’m inconvenienced. For lack of a curb cut, a friend is dead.
I ride a mobility scooter because I have a below-the-knee amputation. It was because of a bone infection that kept spreading. I don’t wear a prosthetic because I get an itchy rash, plus I have really bad arthritis in my knees, so I couldn’t walk more than a few feet even before the infection and resultant amputation.
(I had a pin in a toe and lost part of my toe. I had a screw in my heel and lost part of a leg. I’m not about to have knee replacement surgery. I don’t believe my body takes kindly to metal being left in it for even short periods of time, much less for years.)
People with uncontrolled diabetes can lose limbs because of nerve damage and poor blood circulation problems. That makes it more likely for you to get sores (called ulcers) that are difficult to heal.
Something you probably don’t hear or see mentioned is that if you have nerve damage and poor circulation on one side, it’s probably present on the other side, too. Think about it.
I take very good care of my foot. It really hit hard when my endocrinologist said: “Take care of that foot. It’s the only one you have left.” I wash it every day; keep it from drying out as much as I can so that bacteria can’t get in through cracks in the skin; check it out for anything unusual such as blisters, sores or red spots; have my podiatrist check it and trim my nails (which are particularly difficult to cut); wear a shoe all of the time, even though I don’t walk. Stuff like that. And, needless to say, I keep my blood glucose in good range as much as I can. I used to smoke, but I quit. Smoking is not good for circulation.
My birthday is in a week and I’m supposed to meet some friends for lunch. Please let the major east–west road be ready for prime time by then. And let the street department dudes have their little “toys” off the sidewalks and put away.
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