“Do you want to come to Bob Filner’s fundraiser?”
“Um… yeah. Where is it?”
“Downtown, at Jim Miller’s house, he’s a teacher.” I’d been trying to bring my issue to my elected officials, my friend Sandy was helping me with that.
Going to someone elses house is always iffy. I don’t know if their house is accessible or if I’m just going to waste a trip. Still, that’s why we have a portable ramp. If I got there and couldn’t get in then, at worst, I’ve wasted some gas.
Laura was going with me. The two of us had told my story so many times before that all I had to do was give her a slight nod and she would just go. She would say exactly what I wanted to say, exactly how I wanted to say it. In fact, I trusted her so much, that if I knew we were going to be in a loud place where it would be hard to hear me I would tell her to go ahead and ad-lib for me. We were like one of those door to door sales teams, except instead of bibles we were selling me.
“We have a problem.” she said, “There’s about six steps and then a porch followed by another step. The portable ramp can maybe get up the stairs, but it can’t get you up the last step. Someone from inside brought out this small ramp to kind of connect the two, but there’s a small gap between the two. I don’t think it’s stable… What do you want to do?” She looked at me with eyes that said, ‘For the love of all that is good and holy, please don’t make me do this’.
“Uhh…” On the one hand, the biggest politician in San Diego was going to be in that house and I had a chance to get uninterrupted one on one time with him. On the other, there was a very good chance that I would wildly careen off the make-shift ramp, tilt over and tumble down the steps. But this was an opportunity to get my issue to someone that had power. I wasn’t going to let fear of painful death stop me. Besides, of all the horrible ways to die, tumbling down the stairs isn’t all that bad, “Fuck it, let’s do it.”*
So I sauntered over to the front of the house and took a look at what I was facing. My reaction can only be described as follows:
There were a few problems that I had to overcome. First of all, the incline was way too steep. It’s not that my chair can’t handle it, it’s that it gets harder for me to control the chair going up hill. Secondly, the ramps are about 2 inches wider than my chair, so I had absolutely no room for error. If I veered even a little bit, I was screwed. And lastly, that damn gap between the two ramps was dangerous. It wasn’t more than a few centimeters, but, because the two aren’t connected, they could do whatever they want. They weren’t exactly going to stay motionless the whole time.
“Hey, I’m Maurice, let’s see if we can’t help you get in there.” A very tall older gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a slicked back pony tail walked up to us, “I’ve been involved with the disabled community for 20 years, tell me how I can help.”
“Well, if you could stay behind him to make sure he goes straight…” Laura trailed off.
“Here, Jim will help out.” Another man with a pony tail* and a beard that said, ‘There’s no way I won’t survive the nuclear holocaust’ came out the front door. It didn’t register then, but that was Jim Miller, the guy throwing the fundraiser. He bent over, grabbed the front of the chair and signaled for Maurice to grab the back, “Alright, go on three.”
What? Are you sure about this? I changed my mind.
That ramp has no structural integrity.
Then again, I can’t say no now, I’ll look like a pussy.*
I’M COMING TO YOU, BOB FILNER!
I pushed forward as fast as I could . I figured that if I went fast enough, gravity wouldn’t matter as much and it would be over quicker. Kinda like ripping off a band aid. That logic was quickly proven faulty when we all realized that I had veered slightly to the left.
“Stop! Stop!” I heard Maurice scream. So I did.
“Alright, let go and let him straighten the chair out.” I heard Laura behind me. She tried to sound calm, but the shaking in her voice gave her away.
I stopped and assessed the situation. I had made it half way up the first ramp, but I still had to clear the gap between the two ramps. So I straightened out the chair, closed my eyes and gunned it. It only lasted for a couple of seconds, but it felt like much longer. I felt the first ramp tilt forward and the second ramp tilt up as the weight of my chair transferred from one ramp to the other. I held firm, opened my eyes and watched as I cleared the gap and rumbled into Jim Miller’s front door.
“Holy shit, I’m alive” I said, as Laura ran up behind me. She looked at me as if to say, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t you be?’ As if she wasn’t as scared as I was..
Maurice and Jim ran up to me, “Let us know when you’re ready to leave.” they said as they disappeared into the kitchen.
“So, you want to talk to Bob Filner?” asked Laura.
“What? Right now?”
“Yeah, he’s right there.” she said. I looked around the room and saw an older dude talking animatedly with a glass of water in his hand.
Surely that can’t be him. Aren’t politicians supposed to look less human?
All I saw was someone that could easily have been my older uncle. And he was right the in front of me, all I had to do was go up to him. It felt so strange. These people are supposed to be utterly inaccessible and yet here I was right in front of him.
“So… You want me to bring him over here?”
“Uh…Wait for Sandy.”
I had no idea what I was doing and I was a little afraid that I would blow it somehow. I dunno how I could have possibly blown it, Laura was going to do all the talking.
“He’s right there. I’m bringing him over.” I’m glad that she didn’t listen to me because she told my story perfectly.
“That’s horrible.” He said, “If there’s ever anything I can do, let me know. If you want me to call a press conference…anything…don’t hesitate to contact me.” He handed us a card with his email address and excused himself to mingle with the other guests. We spent the rest of the night doing the same and, after a few hours, decided to leave.
“Let me get Maurice and Jim.” I had gotten in up the ramp, but getting down would way more dangerous. If only for the fact that I would be going down a 45 degree incline and my body would tilt forward. If we weren’t careful I could have actually fallen out of the chair instead of with the chair. That means the my trach could actually come out.
“Are you ready?” I had Jim and Maurice holding the chair steady while Laura had to her hand on my chest to make sure I didn’t do my best superman impression and went flying out of the chair. I slowly inched down the first ramp and got about halfway before I lost my patience and decided to just gun it down. I’m not going to lie, it felt a little bit like space mountain. I heard the ramps clank together as I made it back down to safe ground.
Laura shot me a ‘You’re fucking crazy’ look and I shot back with a ‘Yeah, but I met Bob Filner, didn’t I?’ look. I had risked my life to do it, but no one has ever gotten anywhere without a little risk, right?
*I feel like that’s a good enough justification to do pretty much anything
*This has led me to conclusions about pony tails a) they’re awesome b) they most definitely make you more altruistic.
*This reasoning is used by men to justify 99% of all stupid decisions.