There would have been a time when I would have been thoroughly embarrassed to return from lunch, only to have a co-worker tell me I had spaghetti on my shoe. Now however, my only response to such horrified distress is to laugh. No, I am not a psychopath, at least not yet. You see, I have a perfectly legitimate explanation for these types of things – I just blame my caregiver! Perhaps a bit of explanation is in order.
This alleged incident, which I can neither confirm or deny, actually took place a couple of weeks ago at an Olive Garden restaurant. As a quadriplegic, I get around in public by virtue of a rather large power wheelchair. When we go out to eat, we rarely find a table that has the proper height and leg configuration to allow me to roll under it. If it is a cocktail height table, I normally can roll up to within about a foot of it. But if it is of normal height, the distance from the edge of the table to my mouth can be 2-3 feet, depending on the accessibility of the design. That’s a long way for a for a fork or spoon to travel, with slippery noodles hanging on for dear life. If that wasn’t bad enough, my poor caregiver has to either stand for the whole meal, or get up every time I need a bite. The sight of this to nearby diners evokes a myriad of emotion. Some make sure to pretend not to notice us, while others might give us a wink and a nod for encouragement. I’m not sure if the encouragement is meant for my successful completion of the meal, or for my caregiver not to leave a trail of food from my shoe to my shirt. Once however, it inspired a diner to deftly pick up our check as they walked by, clearly not wanting to draw attention to their generosity. After it happened a second time at the same establishment, that restaurant instantly rose to the top of our favorites. Try as we might to have that replicated a third time, we have been unsuccessful. It doesn’t stop me now however from actively trying to catch the eye of everyone around me, then nodding and winking at them as a sign of encouragement.
The way I look at it, having spaghetti on the top of my shoe gives it a bit of character. After 12 years, the bottom of my shoe looks as pristine as the day it came out of the box. A marinara stain in the form of a noodle might be the only thing that keeps a Walmart greeter from flagging me as a kleptomaniac. Besides, it’s certainly better than being seen with a spoonful of chocolate pudding on my shoe!
Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.