1. Spit on them
2. Tell them how great it is for them to be out in public
3. Hit them
4. Rustle their hair affectionately
5. Kick them
6. Throw them out of their wheelchairs
7. Push them down a flight of stairs
8. Call them Buddy
9. Steal their money
10. Challenge them to a foot race
11. Throw baseballs at them
12. Run them over with your car
13. Ask them to do donuts in their wheelchairs
14. Let your dog bite them
15. Staple yard sale signs to them
16. Clean your shoes on them
17. Pop their tires
18. Call them Four Wheel Freaks
19. Throw firecrackers at them
Imagine if I signed up for a yoga class. More specifically, imagine the instructor’s face when I roll in on the first day of class.
How ironic would it be if I died tonight after posting earlier about how healthy I am?
Last year, I posted a list of resolutions that I intended to accomplish throughout 2012. Other than “Don’t drop out of college,” I failed to accomplish most of the goals I set for myself last New Year. Does that make me a failure? Of course not. It means I’m a winner, and the goals I set for myself were unrealistic and stupid. With that being said, here are all the things I promise to get done in 2013. I hope that my list inspires you to truly challenge yourself to be the best person you can be in the coming year!
1. Drop out of college.
My goal last year to stay in school was too easy, not to mention extremely boring and repetitive. Wake up. Go to school. Come home. Do homework. Smash face on table until bloody. Go to bed. Repeat. Lame. If I’m being completely honest with myself, the allure of graduating just doesn’t seem worth the early morning showers for another year and a half.
So instead, I challenge myself to drop out of college as fast as possible.
And I don’t want to just stop attending classes or doing work until I fail out. That’s been done before. I want the administration to remember my failure for its spectacularness. This semester I will write all assignments with a heavy use of expletives (i.e. William fucking Shakespeare’s shitty poem, “A Fairy Dickhole Song,” is about stupid fucking fairies doing stupid shit with flowers and dew or some shit).
But just writing bad essays won’t be enough, which is why I will also start lighting other students on fire when they answer questions incorrectly during class.
2. Learn how to tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.
Oh wait, I can already do that one. Ladies…
3. Make the school basketball team.
For the past three years, I’ve tried out for the Moravian College Varsity basketball team. All three years I’ve lasted until the final day of cuts before being called into the coach’s office to be informed that I wasn’t going to make the team. “Every time anyone passes you the ball, it just kind of bounces off your head and falls to the ground. I haven’t seen you dribble or shoot even once, and I don’t think it’s safe to let you on the court in a game situation,” he says every year, which I know is his way of saying that my three-point shooting isn’t good enough yet.
I’m obviously a low post/rebounder/big man/high-flying/shot blocker type of player, but if coach wants me to be a sharp shooter, so be it. At some point, my practice routine of 5000 three-pointers a day is going to pay off.
I’ve also significantly improved my vertical. Clearly, this is my season to shine. Tune in to ESPN next fall to see me on SportsCenter’s Top 10, making it rain on our opponents with my salty treys and dirty dimes. Beyond the arc or down low, it doesn’t matter; I’m about to ball so hard in the paint.
4. Get my book published.
I’m very serious about this one.
5. Lose some weight.
Every year I hear the people in my life make resolutions to lose lots of weight. Since I weigh about 1/3 the weight of a healthy adult human, these weight loss resolutions have always seemed rather pointless to me.
However, since I began using the feeding tube that I insert nasally every night, I’ve gained over 16 pounds. I’m up to 62 pounds from my low of 46 last year. “That’s so great, Shane!” say most people. No. Wrong. That’s a horrifically disgusting 34.78% weight increase in just a little over a year. I’m a fat slob, and it’s time for me to take some responsibility for my rapidly accumulating pouches of flubber. Have I no decency?
If I’m ever going to look good in yoga pants, I need to lose around 10 pounds. I’ve considered trying the “Wallpaper Ingestion Cleanse” where you eat nothing but coarse wallpaper for 48 days. It guarantees results, but also comes with the relatively high risk of complete intestinal destruction, so that’s off the table unless I become desperate.
The feeding tube is obviously the culprit of my weight gain. Receiving over 1400 calories per night means that when I wake up in the morning, I’ve already eaten enough calories to last me the day. I love eating, though. Piling on a few hundred extra calories throughout the day is common given my normal diet of junk food and McDonalds and junk food. Changing my “day-time” diet would be the healthy and mature way to lose weight.
But instead, I’ve decided to replace my feeding tube supplement with Lipozene weight loss pills dissolved in sparkling water. Sparkling just because I’m fancy. See you at the beach! I’ll be the one with the beautiful bikini body.
6. Enter (and win) the Special Olympics.
Sadly, I don’t think there are any events that I’d even qualify for. They might let me do some of the races in the early, not-so-serious stages, but after that I’m pretty sure you have to be actually athletic to participate in events. You’d think they (The Special Olympics Governing Body) would include a few events for people with more severe physical limitations, like cross country electric wheelchair races, or electric wheelchair deathmatch jousting, but I guess I’m just too disabled to join in their reindeer games.
7. Start my own professional wheelchair jousting league.
This could be epic. Competitors will conduct the jousts on elevated platforms, hanging hundreds of feet above pits of fire and sharks and thumbtacks. Wheelchairs will be outfitted to hit top speeds of over 100mph so that when impact occurs, skulls will smash, bodies will be pulverized, limbs and metal will go flying, and only the strongest will walk (lol) away champion.
I plan on having kids someday.
It is completely appropriate for you to be uneasy about that statement. You might have some questions. Shane is going to have kids? How would that work? With who? Can he have sex? Would his children be mutants? SMA didn’t make his penis fall off? I thought he had the body of a goat from the waist down?
On a purely physical level, I am perfectly capable of having sex. I get boners and my boners shoot sperm, so having kids is a real option.
(Hi mom and dad and rest of the family! Aren’t you guys glad you read my blog?)
I asked my friends for their immediate reactions to my declaration about having kids. Many of them responded with jokes, but all of their minds went straight to the sexual aspect of the matter. (Side note: Pat replied, “No. We don’t need any more people taking up the handicap parking spaces in this world.” Side note 2: Unless my baby momma is also a carrier of the SMA gene, my kids will not have the disease.)
Anyway, all of my friends basically asked, “How is the sex part going to happen?”
I can’t blame them, but when I think about possibly making new humans someday, I don’t give much thought to the logistics of putting the cookies in the oven, if you will. Rather, I believe the biggest obstacle standing between fatherhood and me is the responsibility of being a parent. How will I take care of my child? How will I hold it? How will I change its diapers? How will I feed it? Teach it things? Protect it? Nurture it?
One can logically assume that the mother will have to take on more responsibility for the child, but what if she is also the one that has to take care of me? With all the physical assistance I need, I’m really nothing more than a large, intelligent baby (that gets boners). What kind of girl wants the pressure of keeping me and another baby alive? These are serious questions that I still do not have the answers to. Someday I will have to answer them. However, since I’m only 20 years old, I have time to think them over. In the meantime, here is a hypothetical exploration of how I might handle taking care of my first child. For the sake of comedy, let’s assume that I am the only one caring for the baby.
To start, I should probably give this kid a name, because I might throw up if I have to refer to it indirectly this entire time. Besides, choosing a child’s name is one of the most important decisions parents have to make. Your name stays with you for life, and if the ideas in my head are any indication, this kid is going to have a pretty shitty upbringing, so I need to pick a good name that isn’t going to bring it more shit down the road from douche bags on the playground.
Oracle. Little baby Oracle Burcaw.
I chose Oracle because it’s gender neutral, and I didn’t want to risk half of you unfollowing me for choosing not your gender, but also because no one fucks with a kid named Oracle. That would just be asking for trouble. (I will refer to Oracle as a “she” though. It’s just easier. Feel free to imagine my hypothetical baby as whatever gender pleases your heart.)
Ok, baby Oracle. You ready?
I’m assuming Oracle is going to need food at some point throughout her childhood. Babies start off by breastfeeding for a while, so I need to figure out a way to get nutrients into Oracle, because last time I checked, sucking my nipples does not produce milk.
But Shane, lots of parents don’t breast feed. All you need to do is give her formula in a bottle. That’s true, but the whole idea of warm formula kind of grosses me out, so I’m going to go ahead and not do that. Plus, if I’m the one holding the bottle to her mouth, Oracle will end up wearing more formula than she drinks.
Luckily, over the past year I’ve become highly adept at the art of nasal feeding tube insertion. I jam a yellow tube up my nose every fucking night. A majority of my daily nutrition is pumped into my stomach while I sleep; I don’t see any reason why I can’t do the same with Oracle. It will be great. Whenever Oracle starts to hunger cry, I’ll slip the tube up her nose and she’ll be full in no time! I’m guessing this method will also cut down on the number of times I’ll have to feed her, because I can’t imagine that she is going to enjoy the feeding tube very much. It will be like a Pavlov experiment. Crying equals painful tube up the nose. She’ll quickly learn to only cry when she’s legitimately hungry.
After she’s done feeding, I will have to burp her. I already see several problems arising. First of all, I can produce about as much force as a gentle breeze with my chicken finger arms, so I won’t be able to smack the burps out of her like normal parents do. Second, I refuse to put myself in any situation where there is even a slight possibility of getting baby vomit on myself.
I think the best way to handle this situation will be to burp Oracle the same way I crack my brother’s back: with the wheels of my wheelchair. Whenever Andrew needs his back cracked or massaged, he lays on his side on the floor, usually face first against a wall. Then, using the 400 pounds of force produced by my wheelchair, I “massage” my front wheels into different spots on his back. I will burp Oracle the same way. When she starts to look a little bloated, I’ll just drop her on the floor (gently!), wait until she crawls near a wall, then wheel-smash away. Don’t worry; I have great control over my wheels. As long as Oracle is smart enough to let me know when she’s in pain, pushing my wheelchair into her back will be just as safe as normal burping techniques.
Babies inevitably throw up, regardless of the burping methods they are submitted to, and since a puke-covered infant is not something I want in my house, I will have to find a way to safely give Oracle a bath. I won’t be able to hold her in the sink. I can barely lift my iPhone; forget lifting a baby. I suppose I could let her crawl outside with the lawn sprinklers on, but something tells me I will have a difficult time getting her back inside. Also, using lawn sprinklers for baby baths is a waste of water. When push comes to shove, I’d rather have a smelly Oracle than a ridiculous water bill. Probably my best bet will be to fill up a kiddie pool in my living room and give Oracle the freedom to bathe as often as she wishes. It will teach independence, responsibility, and water safety (as I’m sure it will take her a few days to learn that she can’t breathe underwater).
Shit, how will I change her diapers?
Simple. I just won’t change them. Ever. Problem solved.
These are just the first few parenting responsibilities that came to mind, but as you can see, I’m clearly a professional problem solver, so I doubt that I’ll have trouble coming up with solutions for additional dilemmas that I’m likely to face. Life won’t be easy for Oracle. She’s going to be born into an—admittedly cruel—environment with all the cards stacked against her. But I firmly believe she’ll make it out just fine, perhaps better than her other baby peers. If nothing else, Oracle will learn a very valuable lesson; nothing that is good in life is easy. You have to work hard and earn what you deserve, even if that means living in incredible filth while constantly fearing that your father is trying to wheelchair-burp you.
For this week’s Motivational Monday we’re going to switch things up a little bit and feature a new story written by the co-founder of LAMN, Inc. - Shane Burcaw. We hope you enjoy it and that his story gives you some motivation today!
Here We Go Again by Shane Burcaw
It started with a peanut. Actually, not even an entire peanut, if it matters. It does. Everything matters.
It started with an almost microscopic fraction of a half-chewed peanut. There we go.
Is Shane allergic to peanuts? No, I’m not. But last week I had an experience with a peanut that ultimately left me curled up in bed, cuddled under mounds of blankets, feverish, and reduced to a sobbing, snotty puddle of life-questioning tears.
Becca was home on fall break, so naturally I spent every waking hour at her house that weekend. Here is literally and exactly what we do when Becca comes home from college with zero distortion of the truth for comedic effect: 1. Eat junk while 2. Watching Teen Mom, and 3. Making fun of each other. My cheek muscles burn from laughing after a weekend spent in Becca’s basement.
On Friday night, Becca’s mom made a glorious announcement from upstairs that she had ice cream and would we like some. Of course we would like some. Not just some… all. Thus our routine described above continued, now with a bowl of rocky road ice cream in each of our laps to go with the sour cream and onion potato chips we had been previously inhaling. To my slight dismay, the rocky road was infused with probably millions of tidbits of peanut, which made chewing each bite with my atrophied jaw muscles somewhat challenging. But ice cream is delicious so I was not about to hand over my bowl to Becca because of a few nuts. Perhaps I should have.
Halfway through the bowl, Becca said something funny enough to make me temporarily forget I had food in my mouth. Somehow in the awkwardness of uncontrollable laughter, while trying not to spew a mouthful of peanut slobber on my lap, I inhaled a little too carelessly and that tiny piece of stupid peanut I mentioned earlier shot right down my windpipe. Coughing began immediately. Not self-generated coughs, but the kind that I couldn’t stop from happening. The ones that are our body’s way of saying, “I prefer having oxygen, so unless you’d rather choke to death and die, I’m going to make you cough very hard until I can breathe again.”
You have to understand that my ability to produce any type of force with a cough is nonexistent. I have the lung capacity of a baby made of tin foil (they have terrible lung capacity, trust me). So as hard as my failing body tried, the stubborn peanut chunk remained lodged in my air tube. After several minutes of probably appearing like I was about to die, I was able to jostle the peanut into a position where it no longer impeded my airflow. The involuntary hacking subsided, as did the stream of involuntary tears, but the peanut was still very obviously in my windpipe. I spent the next half hour trying to force more powerful coughs to bring the peanut up into my throat so I could swallow it. Even though I could breathe, a foreign substance in my lungs spells extremely bad news for me. If I couldn’t get it out, the peanut would sink further down and almost certainly turn into pneumonia.
I coughed myself to the brink of exhaustion. The peanut wasn’t moving and I no longer had the energy to care. I could breathe fine. “Maybe it already came up and you’re just imaging it now,” I tried to persuade myself to calm my flushing cheeks that knew I was not going to be ok.
I returned to my now melted ice cream and made sure to pick out the peanuts as I slopped the chocolate liquid into my mouth. Our conversation resumed, now sprinkled with occasional renditions by Becca of my pathetic coughs. A few hours later I went home. The peanut must’ve slid deeper into my lungs, as expected, because I no longer felt it in my windpipe, and by morning I had completely forgotten the lung peanut even existed.
Saturday and Sunday saw Becca and I doing a lot more of the same thing we did on Friday night. We joked and laughed, and ate, and lounged, and played with Becca’s new iPhone. On Monday, however, while Becca was on an early morning bus ride back to Pittsburgh, I awoke with a cold numbness in my hands and feet. Odd. Especially considering the heavy blankets I slept under.
I sat in the living room and sipped my coffee slowly, savoring the warmth of the mug against the palms of my hands. SportsCenter told me that it was going to be another disappointing week in fantasy football, but I hardly cared. My mind was preoccupied by a tiny pinch felt just below the skin on the right side of my chest on every inhalation. The peanut.
Suddenly my cold hands and feet (and nose, I realized) made sense. I was getting sick.
Alarms sounded. My breathing became shallow and just rapid enough to hide my panic. Maybe if I don’t take deep breaths the lung pain will go away. Maybe I just slept on it wrong. Maybe the house is just unusually cold. “Is anyone else freezing right now?” Maybe I’m just having a weird morning. That happens right? Bodies do weird things; it doesn’t mean I’m sick. But that peanut definitely never came out. How long does it take for a bacterial infection to start? Why does this have to happen now? Why didn’t I try harder to cough it up? What if this is the last sickness?
The idea of the “last sickness” is one that constantly follows me, but makes itself more known in the winter months, especially when I begin to feel ill. Eventually, I’m going to get sick, it will spread to my lungs, and my SMA ravaged body won’t be able to fight it off. Knowing that every illness could be my last makes every illness all the more terrifying.
With all this in mind, I sent a text to one of my closest friends and told her about what had happened. When I start to get scared about dying, talking to someone is the best way for me to calm myself and make sense of things. She advised me to go to the hospital, to which I replied no because hospitals are where people go to die. Maybe I just needed some rest.
I spent the afternoon in bed, huddled under a sheet, two blankets, and a quilt. Still shivering, and desperate. I wrestled with many complex thoughts that afternoon, but for the most part grappled with the question “why me?” I cried silently because clearly I will never find the answer to that question. The fear of ceasing to exist took complete control over me that day. The world will someday go on without me. Lying there in tears, sweat and mucous, I came to terms with the fact that I might not have as long as I’m constantly telling myself. Eventually though, I couldn’t resist letting myself laugh as I reflected on the absurdity of the entire situation.
From this laughter came deep sleep.
When I awoke it was morning. Consciously, I made my lungs inhale deeply. No pain. My heart started to make its steady rhythm felt in my bones and throughout my skull. Several more deep breaths. Still no pain. Someone had removed most of my covers, and to my confusion, I was no longer cold. A frantic glance around the room confirmed that this was indeed reality and not a dream. A sigh of unimaginable relief escaped my chest and ended with massive smile. I’m alive. Not only am I alive, but it seems as if I’m not sick. Did I get lucky? Was it a one-day bug? Did I amplify my symptoms with the knowledge of the peanut?
Regardless of the true explanation for my healing, that massive smile would not disappear. For the next half hour I did nothing but lie on my back, smiling at my ceiling and the sky above, enjoying the freedom of deep breaths and the wonder of having another day to live. Another day to laugh. Another day to procrastinate on homework. Another day to interact with the world and the people in it. Another day to learn. Another day to make mistakes. Another day to admit that my fantasy football team is awful. Another day to make my time on earth as meaningful as humanly possible. Another day to breathe. Another day to breathe. Another day to breathe.
I went out to breakfast with a few friends yesterday. At the table next to us, there was an old woman who had to be at least 75. She ordered eggs and then complained that they weren’t made correctly. Must be a grumpy, old curmudgeon, I assumed.
However, when we got up to leave, the woman stopped us to tell my friends how cute I was. “He is a very cute boy and really has very dreamy eyes,” she said. Then she reiterated her point several times while I awkwardly thanked her.
Even though she clearly didn’t think I had a brain (since she addressed my friends, instead of me), her comment made my day. It took everything inside me not to ask for her number.
You shouldn’t be surprised. Putting it simply (because I’m an English major and don’t have the scientific knowledge to put it any other way), the human body is held together by a framework of muscles and bones. SMA is a muscle wasting disease, which you should know by now basically just means my muscles are shitty at doing anything that muscles are supposed to do, and they’re constantly getting shittier. Don’t believe me? Since I started this blog 16 months ago, I’ve lost the ability to lift my hands any higher than mouth. When my nose or eyes or forehead itches, which seems to be all the fucking time now that I can’t reach those spots, I have to ask someone for a fork or a straw which I use to relieve the itch. Yes, it looks weird, but it’s better than constantly asking other people to itch my face for me. Anyway, my muscles, a large part of my framework, suck.
Another side effect of having shitty muscles is having shitty bones. If you’re not aware, bones that don’t bear weight for long periods of time become extremely weak and easy to break. My doctors tried to delay this process as much as possible when I was a little kid by making me use a “stander.” The stander was a torture device that held my body in a faux-standing position (like a fauxhawk, but different). My legs could never support the entire weight of my body, but the idea was that if I used the stander every day, forcing my legs to bear at least some weight, my bones would strengthen and not become as weak later on in life. However, 5-year-old Shane did not appreciate this logic and thought of the stander only as another way for his therapists to hurt him. I avoided the stander as much as possible and eventually my muscles and bones became so weak that standing in the stander became too painful to bear. I’ve been either sitting or lying down ever since, bearing almost no weight, and this has caused my bones to become pretty weak over the last 20 years.
We now understand why I’m fragile. However, I’m guessing it’s difficult to conceptualize how fragile (or how not fragile) I actually am. I don’t want you to think that flicking my arm will cause a compound fracture, but punching it with any amount of force might. If we ever meet in person, please don’t punch me.
To give you a better idea of my fragility, here are some things that would probably break me:
I suppose you can think of me as a toddler, in terms of how easily broken I am. (Are toddlers easily broken?)
My fragility is not, however, the only point of this post. Instead, I’d like to tell you about a recent event in my life when I legitimately feared for my safety because of my fragility. Let’s begin.
Several weeks ago my good friend Lily surprised me with an awesome phone call: “Shane, Michelle Obama is speaking at Moravian! I got you a ticket. You’re coming with me.”
I’m usually pretty hesitant to commit to going to events before doing my own research. (Is the venue accessible? Will there be a handicap seating area? Will I be able to see from that area? Will my non-disabled friends be able to sit with me in the handicap section?) However, Lily quickly convinced me that an event of such prominence would obviously be accessible, and that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that we wouldn’t be friends anymore if I didn’t attend. Needless to say, I attended.
In the van on the way to the speech, Lily and I speculated about what the seating arrangements would be like. I’ve been to plenty of sporting events, concerts, speeches and shows in my life to know that the handicap seating area is an often-overlooked section of many venues. Michelle was speaking in the basketball gym at Moravian, a smaller-ish building that does not have a built in handicap area. I would be sitting somewhere on the floor, probably near the front, I hoped, so I could see the stage. My biggest concern any time I go to a public event is that the handicap section will allow me to sit with at least one of my able-bodied friends. Let’s be honest, if you went to a football game with a bunch of friends, and found out upon arrival that you had to sit in a secluded area with a bunch of strangers while the rest of your friends sat together somewhere else, you would be at least slightly pissed. This has happened to me more than once, and it is indeed a pile of horseshit.
I must have expressed this mentality, because Lily asked, “So what do we do if we get inside and they try to split us up?”
“Tell them that you have to sit next to me in case I need my seizure medication,” I replied matter of factly.
SMA does not cause seizures; I’ve never had one in my life, but toss out the word seizure next time you’re trying to get something from a person of authority and you’ll be amazed at how understanding they become. To hammer the point home, I promised Lily that if she didn’t do everything in her power to sit with me, I would tell the secret service that she was planning an assassination and have her removed from the venue. That’s what friends are for.
While waiting in line to get in to Johnston Hall, secret service agents approached us and instructed “my companion” and I to follow them. We were with several friends, but we assumed this would eventually happen, so we didn’t argue. Lily and I followed the badass dudes in suits around the side of the building and into the accessible entrance. Upon entering, we were greeted by an older man with a metal detection wand. At least I’m assuming that’s what it was; maybe it was a republican mentality detector, so that they could keep all opposition out of the rally. He scanned Lily and let her through, then surprisingly just waved me through the security checkpoint without checking me at all. I have a bag on the side of my chair that, for all he knew, could’ve been filled with bombs and knives and rocket launchers, but I’m a cute little wheelchair kid so obviously I can’t be evil. I smiled and did my best to not look like a terrorist as I drove past him. Spoiler alert: I’m not a terrorist; that’s not where I’m going with this story.
The gym was packed to capacity. A stage had been constructed on one end of the basketball court, and the rest of the floor was covered by thousands of human beings jamming themselves as close to the stage as possible. My initial thoughts were, “Holy shit it’s 1000 degrees in here,” and “Where the hell am I supposed to sit?”
Off to the right I spotted a big blue handicap sign and some secret service agents standing around it. I moved towards the sign like a moth instinctively moves towards bright light.
(In noisy places, surrounded by people who’s heads are generally 2-3 feet above mine, it’s easy to feel small and insignificant. Even when screaming at the top of my lungs, I don’t have the lung capacity to be very loud. I’ve grown accustomed to not having much of a voice at loud, public events. I rely on facial expressions and the voices of my companions to communicate with other people.)
A young woman with a volunteer sticker on her suit jacket stood next to the handicap sign and explained to us that the disabled seating section was located in the front, near the stage. She motioned to follow her and led us down a narrow path created by a rope barrier along the edge of the gym.
When the handicap section came into view, my heart sank a little. It was a small area near the stage that was blocked off with rope and very noticeably overflowing with old people in wheelchairs. The volunteer lifted the rope for me and promptly closed it in front of Lily. Before I could maneuver my chair around to argue, another secret service agent was directing me into a spot to park my chair. I parked and waited. I can’t turn my head or body very far in either direction, so when another wheelchair pulled up next to me, I was basically stuck staring straight ahead.
Someone off the my left, not in the handicap section, called my name multiple times, failing to understand that I physically couldn’t turn my body to look at them. I felt bad, but this isn’t the first time this awkward situation has arisen so I didn’t let it get to me.
A text from Lily informed me that she was in the regular, standing room only section. The secret service would later let her into the handicap section, but she had to sit behind me, making communication impossible by any means other than text message.
I was pissed. But my annoyance only lasted for several minutes before I had the epiphany that I was really lucky to be seeing this speech at all. I had a great view of the stage and it ultimately was not important if Lily was sitting next to me or behind me. We weren’t at the speech to talk.
Shane, not to be rude, but why the fuck did you start this story by telling us how fragile you are?
Calm down, agitated reader, I’m getting there.
Fast forward a few hours, the speech was pretty good. Lots of “FOUR MORE YEARS!” chants, which were interesting. It was my first political rally, so I have nothing to compare it too. My mind was most captivated, however, by the people sitting around me in the handicap section. To my immediate left was a middle aged woman in a manual wheelchair who spent a majority of the speech yelling “DOWN IN FRONT,” attempting to make some people a few rows in front of us sit down. Assessing the position of her head, in relation to the position of Michelle on the stage, I decided she could see perfectly fine and was most likely just a curmudgeon in the making. In front of me sat a very old man who read a very graphic war novel and kept adjusting his wheelchair to be further to the left for no apparent reason. On my right sat two elderly war veterans. One of them was black, and I listened to them intently as they exchanged grim stories of racism back in the day. It was probably the most impactful moment of my night, hearing these two men discuss what it truly meant to have rights in America.
Then the speech ended. Raucous applause accompanied Michelle Obama as she walked off the stage and approached the handicap section. That’s when things got nuts.
When the crowd realized that she was going to shake hands with the front row, everyone went completely ape shit. The flimsy rope that blocked off the handicap section gave way as a flood of able-bodied people crashed into our area, pushing themselves between the wheelchairs to get to the front. The angry wheelchair woman to my left lost her mind and JUMPED out of her chair. I kid you not, she literally leapt out of that fucking wheelchair, screamed Michelle’s name repeatedly, climbed over an empty chair in front of her, and disappeared into the crowd that was surging towards Michelle.
This is when my fragility became a problem. Sitting in the middle of the handicap section, surrounded by wheelchairs, folding chairs, and crazed Obama supporters, I was suddenly very unsafe and very trapped. Large, heavy, adult bodies tripped over me and stumbled into me. I was merely an object for the fans to maneuver around. Generally people are abnormally careful around me, but on this night, if meeting Michelle meant smashing my body, I was getting smashed. All it would’ve taken is one stumbling person to connect with my head and my neck would’ve snapped like a twig.
To make matters worse, trying to forcibly drive my chair in any direction only caused more people to fall over me. All I could do was sit and hope that the craziness would subside and I would live to laugh about it later.
Clearly I did. Eventually, Lily used her hulk strength to throw a few wheelchairs out of the way. She then lowered her shoulder and became my lead blocker as we barreled through the crowd on our way to the back door.
Overall, it was a very worthwhile experience. I didn’t die, which is a plus! And let’s be honest, if I had died in the chaos, it would’ve made an awesome story and the Obama’s probably would’ve called my family to offer condolences, which is something not many people can say has happened to them.