In my previous post, I talked about my encounter with children who were curious about myself being in a wheelchiar. This one is about grown-ups with the curiosity of a child.
“Why are you in a wheelchair?” It’s as blunt as it can be, especially when they don’t even say “Hi” first. In my experience, thirty percent of the time, they were seniors; thirty percent of the time, they were my fellow Chinese folks and the remaining percentage consisted of other ethnic minorities.
So, here is a common scenario: I park my wheelchair outside the entrance of a building while waiting impatiently for my wheel-trans to come. A naive stranger walks by in a chill-lax pace, stops, scans my entire frame, gives a friendly smile and asks, “what’s wrong with your legs?” I have to confess, before my spinal cord injury, I too, had zero knowledge about the central nerve system and its magnificent power. It would be bitter to shun her overflowing amount of enthusiasm. I answer, “well, it’s not really my legs, it's my spinal cord.” “Oh?” Her curiosity elevates to another level. “Hmm, you see, the spinal cord contains a lot of nerve fibers. A bundle of nerves looks and feels like Tofu, with the same texture and color and everything. When they are squashed, people are not able to walk. . .” Sometimes, I would try to expand my anatomical tutorial for as much as possible in order to give more time for my wheeltran to come and rescue me, hence, I could flee from the next inevitable question --- “So, why did you break your spinal cord?” Unlike most other SCIs who were injured in a pure accident, I am not particular proud about the nature of my injury. I certainly do not feel necessary to tell strangers about the fact that it’s the result of a failed suicidal attempt. I was too honest a few times, and got them even more excited. So, the quickest way out is to say “I had a car accident.” If my ride still has not arrived, I am expected to describe a little bit and use more imagination. Sometimes, I would get so confused in my own fantasy and begin to contradict myself. . .
Fortunately, every such encounter ends on an optimistic note: “Oh, don’t you worry gal. Let me tell you, you are young, you will be able to walk again.” Almost a bit too optimistic, but I appreciate that.