Let me tell you about my scooter.

I have a fold­able elec­tric trike scooter slightly heav­ier than my tod­dler. It has no pedal op­tion, just footrests.

It can’t re­verse. It cor­ners badly. It has a lit­tle nub­bin that’s sup­posed to keep it from un­fold­ing till I de­liber­ately un­fold it, but that usu­ally doesn’t work. It has a top speed of “brisk jog”. If I ride it on a poorly main­tained side­walk it will punch me in the crotch with its bi­cy­cle seat till I’m numb. It can go roughly five or six miles on one full bat­tery and doesn’t have a swap­pable bat­tery pack. It has lit­tle enough torque that I some­times have to kick it for­ward, even though it’s not de­signed for that, in or­der to get from a cur­b­cut up onto a road if the road is arched highly enough and I don’t start with mo­men­tum; there are street-le­gal slopes it can­not climb. My cargo ca­pac­ity is limited to what I can wear on my torso and fit in a small bike bas­ket in front.

I love it to pieces and you’re go­ing to see them pop­ping up ev­ery­where in the next cou­ple of years.

See, I’m bad at walk­ing. Not like, you know, re­ally dis­abled. I can do two blocks with­out com­plain­ing, five if I have a rea­son, I could walk a mile if I had a great rea­son. It’d make me mis­er­able and ex­hausted and my feet and an­kles would hate me for the rest of the day and I might need to stop and rest four times in the sec­ond half, but, you know, I could. I’d spit fire if some­one told me it was three blocks to where we were go­ing and it was re­ally seven whoops, but I’d get there, and I’d get home af­ter, too, too tired to play with my child and in too much pain to stand up long enough to cook din­ner, but hey! I wasn’t dis­abled or any­thing!

Fac­tor in the fact that I can­not drive, stand­ing is worse for my feet than walk­ing, and I can­not ma­neu­ver in traf­fic, and you will un­der­stand why I am not solv­ing this prob­lem with a car, con­ven­tional scooter, or bi­cy­cle. Some­times I took the bus, if I felt like stand­ing in the sun for ten to fif­teen min­utes. But that was fine! I wasn’t dis­abled or any­thing!

I am the pri­mary care­taker of a tod­dler. This tod­dler loves to go to the play­ground. It’s two blocks and change from home. I can walk that, but bring­ing a munchkin along I also have to stand for about as long as I walk so he can look at ev­ery­thing—un­less I want to carry him, and he’s heavy, and then my arms com­plain as well as my feet. Maybe once ev­ery two weeks, we’d go to the park, and I would care­fully mon­i­tor my en­ergy lev­els once there, bal­anc­ing rest for my feet and fa­tigue ac­cu­mu­lated over the course of just sit­ting there, till we’d have to go home, so that I could make it all the way there even if the lit­tle one sud­denly quit walk­ing and de­manded to be car­ried all the way home.

I have a trike now. I use it as a wheelchair. I can wear my kid in a baby car­rier, get on it, be at the park in a cou­ple of min­utes, stay as long as he wants, go home if he’s done in fif­teen min­utes with­out feel­ing like it’s an awful waste, and have all the en­ergy I would if I’d spent that time sit­ting in my chair at home, so when I get home I can make food or play with him or do chores. We can do this ev­ery day. He goes to the park about ten times as of­ten now.

I have a trike now. I can, when some­one else is around to watch the kid, make a low-vol­ume gro­cery trip. I have signed up for par­ent-tod­dler swim les­sons that I can now phys­i­cally at­tend. I brought the trike on va­ca­tion with me to D.C. and I rode it for a lit­tle over a mile from Union Sta­tion to the Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory be­cause it was eas­ier than figur­ing out a strange metro sys­tem and my spouse could rent a Bird to keep up. I didn’t ride it into the mu­seum, be­cause I was con­cerned about its bat­tery life, and try­ing to walk the chair­less halls of the Smith­so­nian wiped me out, leav­ing my spouse with most of the tod­dler-wran­gling. This is now a prob­lem I can ac­tu­ally solve. Next time I’ll bring my charger.

I’m be­ing a lit­tle long-winded about this be­cause I feel very strongly about it. I can now go places. In a very real way I feel more like a per­son com­pared to my prior sta­tus as an im­mo­bile sort of minor house­hold god. Mo­bil­ity turns out to be im­por­tant in a way I would not have de­scribed it as be­ing a cou­ple of months ago. A cou­ple of months ago I would have said I just didn’t like leav­ing the house. I would also have told you I was “bad at” trav­el­ing be­cause it was so hard to wring any value out of all the far-flung tourist des­ti­na­tions—I’d go places, see frac­tions of them till I was too drained to look for any­thing but the next bench, wind up spend­ing most of the time in my ho­tel.

I thought that I could walk if I re­ally wanted to see things. I thought I just didn’t care enough. I thought that I just wanted to be home, any­way. I thought ev­ery­one’s feet hurt, ex­cept in­so­far as they walked enough to build up a tol­er­ance for it, and that I’d sim­ply never cared to build up a tol­er­ance out of per­sonal idiosyn­cratic prefer­ence. Be­cause I thought I wasn’t dis­abled.

I don’t know how to ex­press how non-ob­vi­ous this was. I am not di­ag­nosed with any­thing that ought to im­pair my abil­ity to walk, be­sides be­ing out of shape. It’s a lot of lit­tle sub­clini­cal things. My feet hurt. I over­heat. I have a weird breath­ing ail­ment which can flare up when I’m sta­tion­ary but sure doesn’t help if I’m mov­ing. I have an un­usu­ally high in­ci­dence of Ran­dom Idio­pathic Joint Fuck­ery (that’s a tech­ni­cal term). But with arch sup­ports on a cold day if my lungs were be­hav­ing and my joints were all okay I could drag my­self a few blocks! If I had a good rea­son! So I wasn’t -

My dad once told me a story about my grand­mother, his mom, re­sist­ing the use of a wheelchair to ac­com­pany us on a fam­ily trip to an amuse­ment park. She could walk, she said. Yeah, he said, but she couldn’t walk all around the park all day and have a good time. If the wheelchair would make it bet­ter for her, she should use it. She used it.

He never ap­plied this philos­o­phy to me, so I didn’t ei­ther, till one day on a whim I tried an Amigo mo­tor­ized gro­cery cart dur­ing a Costco run, and a dozen in­visi­ble calcu­la­tions evap­o­rated, re­placed with “how can I ma­neu­ver around the ar­ti­chokes so as to avoid need­ing to make that awful backup beep­ing noise”. Did I need some­thing down that aisle? I could go check for free. Did I want to get a closer look at some­thing I wasn’t gonna buy? I could do that too and I wasn’t spend­ing steps I’d need to cross the park­ing lot. Did my hus­band want me to carry the kid? This added no mean­ingful ex­er­tion. I’m sure it wouldn’t be an im­prove­ment if you value be­ing able to si­dle around peo­ple eas­ily more than get­ting to sit down. But for me it was mag­i­cal.

Every time I go any farther than the park on my trike, some­body tells me it’s cool. Some­body asks me where I got it, how much does it cost, what’s the brand name? Peo­ple in con­ven­tional wheelchairs, and peo­ple who aren’t us­ing any mo­bil­ity aids at all just like I didn’t. A lot of peo­ple want these. They don’t know it yet, like I didn’t.

The price point’s drop­ping, the tech is here and iter­at­ing, and if you have the right kind of in­visi­ble dis­abil­ity, they’re life chang­ing.

Want one? (ETA: Since this post was writ­ten, it has be­come clear that my scooter is poorly con­structed Chi­nese crap. I bought an emer­gency backup scooter of the same model, be­cause noth­ing else on the mar­ket meets my needs, and so far the two of them have never been out of the shop at the same time; I rode one to the bike shop with failing brakes, dropped it off, and rode out on my new one to finish my er­rands, im­me­di­ately los­ing a hub­cap in the park­ing lot. You should prob­a­bly get the kind of scooter you stand up on if that would work for you, or a stur­dier sort of ny­oom if you don’t need the abil­ity to fold it up real small for car trunks/​buses/​trains. That hav­ing been said, I still ride my poorly con­structed Chi­nese crap all the time and value it enor­mously.)

Lo­cal post rule: Com­ments about my weight, phys­i­cal con­di­tion, etc., will be nuked with ex­treme prej­u­dice. If you’re Sincerely Con­cerned About My Level Of Ac­tivity please be ad­vised that I am newly ca­pa­ble of trav­el­ing to the YMCA.

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