Whenever I stop at the gas station and call for assistance with pumping my gas, explaining of course that I’m a wheelchair-user, I often get a barrage of questions from the gas station attendant when they come out. When they see that I’m driving my van while still in my powerchair, they can’t help but ask away.
After all, it’s not every day they see someone in a vehicle like mine. We are a rare breed – us wheelchair-users who drive from our wheelchairs. And they’ll always ask the same questions: How do the hand controls work? How does your chair not move while driving? One time, the attendant was so enthralled by my vehicle she forgot to put the gas cap back on. I’ll get so caught up in my world I’ll forget the technology I’m using is pretty cool.
But the thing is, when it makes people act stupid, that’s not cool. It drives me insane. Recently an interesting thing occurred while at a gas station. It started while I was on the freeway. I looked down at my gauges while going 70 miles per hour and realized my floor lock for my wheelchair was no longer lighting up. It was broken (there was a short). Unfortunately, this has happened to me before.
This meant I would be unable to unlock myself from the floor once I got home. Panicked I wouldn’t make it to the gas station to ask for help before they closed at 10pm, I drove like a crazy lady to the gas station by my house, parked, rolled down my window and asked the first able-bodied person to walk by if they could help.
I explained to them there was a lock under my wheelchair that was broken. The trigger button to unlock it wasn’t responding, which meant it needed to be manually released. And the manual release? In the worst spot ever – directly underneath my wheelchair. It was so dark outside too that it made it even harder for the older gentleman who was helping me to find the manual release under me. I felt like I was trying to to explain what the color purple looked like to someone who had never seen before.
Finally after minutes of prodding, he found the metal bar I was hoping he would find and released me from the broken lock. After helping me, he didn’t stay around, walking away to his car quickly (I’m pretty sure I freaked him out). And then I was left with another dilemma – how to avoid locking myself back into the lock while driving myself home, which was three blocks away.
I thought of the solution – trick the lock into thinking my wheelchair was already in it by manually pulling the lock closed. It was a temporary solution that worked although it did require me to ask one more stranger for assistance (the old lady closing the gas station). She helped me with a smile, although she was worried she could get hurt finger-wise helping me (I assured her she would not).
Luckily I got myself home without getting stuck again, but unfortunately I’m still in the process of getting it fixed. This is the reality of wheelchair van problems – they’re not easy to find or fix. Elusive, sporadic and downright accursed, they can try you like nothing else. Stay tuned for updates my friends. In the meantime, keep that EZ Lock/Q’straint floor lock in tip-top working shape.
Have you had any scary hiccups with your floor lock?
Photo courtesy of Mobility Works