Now I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but the overly sarcastic side of me apparently avoided paralysis, and claws its way to the surface quite often. Most times I can suppress it… but sometimes it just needs out, you know? Being a quadriplegic, I tend to find myself in precarious situations from time to time which instigate these little battles in my mind. Let me give you a few examples of the quandaries I face on a daily basis.
For some reason, probably the fact that people just don’t know what to say, people always ask me the same question. "How are you feeling?" Hmm… how am I feeling? Now, how do I respond to that? Considering that I only have sensation from about the armpits up, should I tell them "about 10 percent?" Perhaps "not much" would work as well. If I told them the truth, that I feel like a floating head, I’m pretty sure that would just make them feel uncomfortable.
Or what about those fun trips to the hospital? Sadly, I spend more than my fair share of time in those sterile hotels. These places do nothing but feed into my alter-ego’s desire to come forth. I can’t remember how many times an x-ray technician helped a nurse transfer me to the x-ray table, and three seconds later asked me to hold my hands over my chest. Apparently that time span is long enough to forget that they had just pulled my lifeless body off of the gurney. Even after I remind them that I’m a quad-riplegic, they ask me if I’m sure I can’t hold them, for just a second. It’s then that I look at them and ask, "Am I doing it now? How about now? Anything yet? Tell me when they get there."
Exhibit B: phlebotomists (those that draw your blood). I understand that these vampires poke countless people daily, and have a routine which is second nature. Right before they stick the needle in my arm they say "you are going to feel a little poke." So here’s my question. Knowing full well that I’m NOT going to feel a thing, should I let out a courtesy wince anyways? I figure, these people live their life by that protocol, I’m sure the wince would be considered the benchmark for a job well done, yeah?
There is one situation that I can’t help but find utterly hilarious. Sometimes I will be trying to sleep, or somewhat on my way there, and someone will walk into the room. During those times when I feel like being left alone, I just pretend to be asleep. Occasionally, that person will need to talk to me about something, so they try to wake me up… by squeezing my hand or tapping on my knee. Think about that for a second…. exactly. Good luck with that, pal.
Another dilemma, brought to my attention by another quadriplegic, occurs at one of the simplest methods of pedestrian traffic control. The crosswalk. Since birth, we are rightfully conditioned to obey the little sign across the street. When it says WALK, you are free to cross the road. Conversely, DON’T WALK reminds you to stay put. It’s a fairly easy concept. That is, if you can walk. When confined to a wheelchair, these intersections can be rather confusing. When the sign reads WALK, what do I do? I can’t walk. But if I try to cross on DON’T WALK, because that is what I am more qualified for, I run the risk of becoming a hood ornament on the nearest UPS truck. Quite the Catch-22. (I can’t take credit for that observation. Nick, that one is all yours)
Finally, I turn to you for advice. Is there any good way to respond (without hurting feelings) to a person who meets you for the first time, and reaches out to shake your hand? I try to combat it with a lighthearted "I would if I could," but nothing I have found can prevent the acquaintance from feeling completely embarrassed. Oh well. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from embarrassment.