What is it about using a wheelchair that makes me feel self-conscious and vulnerable? A chair is the smartest way to get from Point A. to Point B. when the distance is just too great to walk. Or I should say, hobble, bent over my cane and looking as if I am about to collapse. Often, that is the case.
Is self-esteem such a fragile commodity that it caves in to stereotypes? Recently we were in a corridor outside our room in a Boston hotel. When we heard an entourage coming up behind us, we stepped to the side. Stephen Hawking and his handlers seemed to streak by. Hawking was in his motorized chair, looking like the King of Prussia, alert and semi-smiling, I thought. No self-esteem deficit there, I thought.
I am not sure I could pass seventh grade algebra, but I think enough of myself that I should not feel like a loser on wheels. But I shrink into the chair until I am smaller than life and cannot wait to get to the gate at the airport. I have yet to run into anybody I know on one of these excursions, but I know it will be humiliating. How crazy is that?
Please do not advise me to seek professional help. There are many better reasons for me to do that. I used a chair at Penn Station not long ago. The redcap took me down an elevator and toward the front of the train. I fetched a coffee and newspaper on the way. By the time the hordes of business travelers boarded, I was sitting quite comfortably reading.
What is wrong with me?