Monday, December 8, 2008

Motorized Wheelchair

Man 12/5

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a motorized wheelchair in the NYC subway in a long time. Well, I’ve definitely never seen such a large man in a motorized wheelchair in NYC. He must have been somewhere north of 250 pounds, maybe even over 300. He resembled an older Frank Black (from The Pixies); just as bald and rotund, but with a lot more weight. Clean shaven, no earrings, no tattoos, no distinct markings.

No one bothered him at all, nor did anyone really stare too much. Funny, but it’s safe to say that NYC is one of the few places where a man like him might feel invisible.

The chair itself was pretty large. This grey office-chair sized vinyl high-back, that had a pocket on the back and a grey headrest. The armrests were black, as was the seat belt that was wrapped around our guy. And the chair was attached to the motorized wheels with only on short poles. Imagine all that weight balanced on 4 small slender round metal bars. The chassis of the motor was black, though the cover on the battery pack was a metallic midnight blue. And there were two round red lights on the battery itself, along with a sticker indicating the make and model - “Jazzy 614 HD”. I looked it up and the chair costs $3699. Ouch!

There were 2 Lands End canvas tote bags hanging from the headrest behind the back of the chair. Both white but one with Carolina blue and the other with navy blue accents. And there was also this simple black leather messenger that looked small on his lap, with the strap over his right shoulder.

He was wearing a navy blue winter ski parka, which curiously had no branding. There were 2 pockets across the chest, 2 larger pockets across the waist, and a hood. The corduroy slacks were a faded grey, and his socks were ordinary white tube socks. On his feet were white New Balance sneakers, model 550. I’d guess that they were around size 12 or 13, which gives you a better idea of his physical size. One could also just make out the light blue flannel shirt he had on, peeking out from under his parka.

I was totally intrigued by the chair. Six wheels. Two small ones in front, two large ones in the middle, and two smaller ones in the rear. The smaller wheels were black, with black 5-spoke star rims, and were on a swivel. The larger wheels were grey with steel rims in the same style but not on a swivel, but covered by mudguards. A pair of bright yellow shock absorbers in the front stood out from all that black and blue .

The joystick controller was on the right armrest, near the front. And because his body was so large, you couldn’t see the left arm at all. It was hidden from general view by that parka. His feet rested on this large plastic plate attached to the frame of the wheelchair. And from time to time, he would actually move a foot off the plate, and then back on.

The man parked his wheelchair in front of a set of train doors. Leaving just enough room for a small sized person to squeeze between him and the seat partition to exit or enter. He was asleep for most of the ride, and given his level of comfort, I’d guess that he was a veteran straphanger.

1 comment:

  1. I was recently subjected to a disturbingly obese-and-diabetic welfare cow on Broadway. She was contributing to the energy crisis by rocket-rumbling between the walkers and for-sale Christmas trees. The juxtaposition was jarring. Lined up like prisoners or teenage orphans, there were these blue spruces-majestic and aromatic, life-giving and immobile. And mechanically inching into the frame was this Baroness Harkonnen, accoutred with her own 21st century suspensors.

    When I was 34, I finally quit smoking. Mostly I wanted to be a good role model for my daughter, to show her that willpower demands making difficult and uneasy decisions on an hourly basis. And as my abstinence took root, I came to see self-destruction as the ultimate form of arrogance. Smoking, drug abuse, overeating-they all represent a latent childishness that demand the abuser be taken care of...if eventually. Self abuse is a social temper tantrum.

    In urban life, there is no way to shame someone. And that is shameful. No motorized wheelchair can ever bare the full burden of its ridiculously overweight rider.