This past summer, 3 friends and I (all recent high school gradates) decided to journey to the zoo. You’re probably wondering why we would do that as 18-year-olds; I’m still kinda wondering that too. It was half off and adult night, not that it mattered because we didn’t have fake ID’s. Despite this, we stood in the long line and waited for our tickets. Now, I should’ve expected something like this to happen with these friends. As always, I didn’t.
Once getting past the ticket line, one of my friends pointed out the four wheelchair mobiles availably sitting in front of us. Semi-kiddingly, my friend still in line asked if they were available for rent. I silently prayed in the back of my head that this woman would realize it was a horrible idea to rent this contraption out to 4 teenagers; my prayer wasn’t answered to say the least.
Before I knew it, my friends all hopped on their wheelchair mobiles (I really don’t know what it’s called) and sped off. Me, as usual, could not operate any type of machinery (probably why I still don’t have my license) and continuously lagged behind them basking in stares. Wishing I had some substance impairment related to why I made this $10 decision in the first place, I kept driving forward cautiously.
We encountered many groups of people at the zoo. I drove by adults ranging from their mid 20’s and late 70’s, they all had the same thing in common: a reaction. It wasn’t until I ran into another rightful owner of a wheelchair mobile that I felt my anxiety really kick in. I ducked as my friends saluted their fellow mobile member.
While some people passed us with disgust, others cheered in approval screaming “f*** yeah, how’d you guys land that?” We’d laugh at first and then slowly realize that people didn’t think we actually paid for this experience, but rather stole it from people in need. Lots of people would make not so subtle comments under their breath about how we were assholes; the thing is, I didn’t completely disagree with them.
As if the ride hadn’t felt long enough, the wheelchair mobiles ahead of me seemed to fade into the distance as I was trapped in between zoo-goers buying drinks. This, as you can imagine, was my worst nightmare. Slowly trying to pry myself through them, a 20-something old girl looks me straight in the eyes and says, “yeah! you really look disabled. bet you think you’re real funny! Ha!” With an outburst slowly growing inside of me, I continued to try to pry my way out, but not in time to miss this last memorable comment.
The 20-something old girl’s friend looks at me, then her, and loudly, and hopefully drunkenly whispers “DUDE… look at her! Stop. She’s actually disabled,” in DEAD seriousness. Let’s just say I stepped on that buggy and didn’t look back.
While this story may sound offensive, it is entirely not my intention. The only problem with this comment was that at the time, I was a healthy 18-year-old girl with completely functioning limbs and obtained zero signs of a deformity? I am to this day very confused how I somehow expressed myself in a different manner other than my extreme awkwardness seeming a bit twitchy. Maybe it was my face? I don’t know. What I do know is, I will never be riding a wheelchair mobile in the zoo again, especially on adult night.
Damn, they really hit you where it hurts.