By Teresa Swartz Roberts
27. Copyright 2019
Outta my way, Monkey Fighters!
I crossed a line. I went into a big-box store and marched up to the motorized cart parked by the door, and I sat on it. I laid my cane in the basket up front. The hook stuck out a bit, but that was the only place to put it. I was ready to shop.
I’ve looked longingly at the motorized carts before today, long before my Parkinson’s diagnosis. I’ve used a cane for quite a while now, so I’m used to looking disabled. I guess there’s something about a cane that makes me feel cool, as though I’m wearing tap shoes and a top hat. (Note my nerdy definition of cool.) So I wasn’t so much worried about how I would look as what that cart represents.
The motorized cart used to represent giving in. Today I am trading in that definition. Motorized cart = ability to go to the back of the store and pick out a new toilet seat before the plumber is scheduled to visit.
The cart had a wide seat made more like a chair than a bicycle seat. I noticed it had a tail. No, that was the cord for recharging it. It wasn’t plugged in, so I checked the light display to see that the battery was fully charged and draped the plug over the front basket, roping myself in on one side. There was no seat belt, so the cord would have to do.
I looked for floor pedals. Ummm, none. This cart was designed for people whose legs don’t work well. I felt momentarily guilty. Was I disabled enough to use this cart? That thought led to another question: Was I going to buy a toilet seat without this cart? I wrapped my hands around the handlebars and tried the controls. I was moving.
The light bulbs began to rush by on the right. I tweaked the controls, experimenting with speed and stopping. An associate in an orange apron appeared, placing a package of LEDs on the shelf. I visualized going around her, and then I visualized plowing through her, unable to stop.
“This is my first time on one of these carts. Maybe you should get out of the way just in case.”
I was speaking quickly and a little louder than I thought I should to make sure I would be heard. Sometimes my brain tells me my voice is loud and clear, but my brain is lying. That’s part of Parkinson’s. Basically, on the inside, I was yelling, “Outta the way, M—F—!” Except I don’t use those words. My mind translated the profanity to the broadcast TV version, “Oughtta the way, Monkey Fighter!” and finally to the more reasonable sentences that came out of my mouth.
All this happened in the four seconds I had as I approached the associate. I have trouble multi-tasking, so I was extra proud of myself for not only translating my thoughts into words but translating my thoughts into actions. I slowed down and swerved to the left, missing the associate, who smiled.
Actually, all that Monkey Fighter stuff came about later when I told my husband about navigating around displays and carts and shoppers and ladders and how mortified I was at the thought of running into someone. I had heard Monkey Fighter on a TV show I like, attributed to Samuel L. Jackson talking about those “monkey-fightin’ snakes” on the “monkey-fightin’ plane.” Nevertheless, I was proud of myself for causing no casualties.
I did learn a few things. I had a different view of the world, one that I assume I’ll have when I graduate to a wheelchair, if I’m still able to run errands at that point. I realized how many things are out of reach or behind the display of batteries. I felt the power of driving the powered chair. It gave me the ability to do what I needed to do. And people respected the machine.
I respected the machine enough to try it again. I learned that it will turn on a dime. I don’t have to announce myself with the beep-beeping back-up alarm if I can turn instead of reversing. There’s got to be a metaphor in there somewhere. Don’t reverse; turn. And make it quick.
Outta my way, Monkey Fighters!