Mary Schweitzer

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Spacing Out at the Mall

I get spacey in crowds -- but since I can't drive (my confusion is too strong), I never go anywhere by myself. So ... I just relax and go with it. That is, lots of people pay to get a buzz on; I get one for free. I really need a "keeper" with me, though -- when my family left me early at the All-Star Game preliminaries in July (they went down to a party downtown that would have been too much for me, and I said I'd just enjoy sitting and watching the stuff at the Vet), if it wasn't for the kindness of strangers, I think I would have left my pocketbook in ten different places.

When I first began using a handicapped parking tag, my daughter was mortified that I would just walk out of the car and walk into wherever we were going. So, at the suggestion of someone on this very list, I bought myself a cane ($6.59 for a cheap wooden one at the drug store). It was just going to be a prop -- but I learned quickly that I really needed it -- I loved it.

First, my balance isn't very good. At home, I can touch furniture or walls to stabilize myself. (My golden retriever thinks she helps out by sticking to my side, but instead I have to be careful not to fall over her -- but I love her for the thought) Well, that was one of my problems in public -- I was really afraid I would fall -- I would get bumped and lose my balance, or I would encounter an unexpected drop in the pavement or a step everybody but me saw. With the cane, I was no longer afraid of falling. That helped immensely.

I also found that when people see me with the cane, they give me space. Most people will try not to bump into you if you have a cane (and when they do, everybody glares at them; lots of fun.) So, I could create my own little safe plce within the crowd.

Finally, though, I just don't walk very much in those situations (I can't walk much anyway). At a sports event, my husband drops me off at the entrance nearest my seat (they are really nice about it -- the Olympics was the only place that was lousy about accomodations) and goes and parks, and the rules are I just walk right down and sit down. Then when he and the kids get back, someone can go get me something to eat. (I can go to the restroom on my own ...) That works very well.

At the mall, I use a wheelchair. They provide wheelchairs for free at our local malls, but, unfortunately, they are not motorized. So I have to have a babysitter, which is not always easy. Even if I can get the handicapped bus to pick me up and TAKE me to the mall, I can't get around the mall because I can't use a wheelchair on my own. But the local Acme has a motorsscooter that works great. I love it. Little kids want to know how come I get to ride the little car -- and before their parents drag them away with an alarmed look on their face, I say -- because I'm lucky. (If the parents let them stick around long enough, I explain I have a medical problem that makes it hard for me to walk, but then I get to ride this thing and it's fun. My brother grew up in a wheelchair; I am not shy about this at all. Kids have no problem with it -- they nod and understand. It's the parents who get embarrassed ...)

One reason you may be getting dizzy at the mall is that you are unaware of how long you just stand around there. A secondary solution that some of us use is to get the wheelchair, push it (which helps with the balance), and then sit in it when you are looking at things to buy or you have to wait in line.

And if people glare at you when you stand up, you can always use my favorite line, borrowed from good friend Rona on the left coast -- "It's a miracle! I can walk!"


As for me, most of my holiday shopping is spent walking the catalogs.

© Mary Schweitzer, 1997

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