©2011, Gordon Kirkland
It’s been over twenty years since I broke my spine in a serious golfing accident. I was on my way to the golf course when someone decided that finding a tape on the floor of his car was more important that watching to see if I had stopped in traffic. My handicap hasn’t been the same since. After four years in a wheelchair, I learned how to “walk” using forearm crutches. Those crutches have led to some interesting Christmas shopping experiences over the years.
I live on the west coast of Canada. The weather office tells me that this area has only a 7% chance of having a white Christmas, so I might as well sing about dreaming of a dry Christmas.
I'm dreaming of a dry Christmas
Just like the Arizona kind
With no puddles to watch for
On the wet mall floor
That crutches always seem to find
You see, all of this rain makes walking with crutches a very exciting pastime. Mine seem to have a mind of their own when they are wet, or hit water on a tile or terrazzo shopping mall floor. They each want to go in diametrically opposing directions from the other, and also from the direction I thought I was going.
I’m not a big fan of shopping malls at the best of times, but mixing a combination of over stressed Christmas shoppers, with trying to walk on forearm crutches can be downright suicidal. Every time I have gotten the courage to venture into a store lately I've had some sort of experience involving other shoppers and my crutches. After the initial shock, the only thing to do is laugh at them. If I didn’t, I’d end up like one of those disgruntled postal workers who wipe down their semi-automatic pistols with your Christmas cards.
As I walked down the aisle of a mall one day just before Christmas a few years ago, I suddenly came to the realization that I was no longer supported by my left hand crutch. The woman who knocked it out from under me as she hurried past was clearly well into the Christmas spirit (and possibly spirits.) She was wearing Christmas tree earrings and a Santa Claus button on her coat. The jolly old elf’s nose was a tiny blinking red light.
I tried to balance myself with one crutch, and the railing overlooking a twenty foot drop down to Santa’s lap on the lower level. I thought that the child getting her picture taken would have me plummeting into the top of the photo. It would certainly be a memorable holiday image.
The woman who had set the whole process in motion turned around, and showing a clear concern for my welfare said, “Why the @#$% don’t you watch where you’re going?”
I pointed out to her that my head didn’t spin around like something out of a horror movie, so I wasn’t able to tell that she was on a collision course with my crutch, until she hit it. It’s almost the same thing I told the man who drove into the back of my car when he wondered why I didn’t move out of his way.
Another shopper recently hit one of my crutches with a shopping cart. She told me that she wouldn’t have hit “that thing” if I wasn’t holding it beside me.
I said, “Well, ma’am, if I put them between my lags, I tend to fall over. If I don’t bring them at all…I…well… I tend to fall over.”
I guess I shouldn’t worry about that, because I am actually quite good at falling. In fact, I haven’t missed the ground once in all these years.
One day, I decided to take a short cut through the women’s clothing section of a large department store. I stopped for a moment to let the aisle clear ahead of me. A woman walked by on her way to the nearby changing room.
She told her four or five-year-old, “Wait right here until I come out and don’t move. I’ll be just behind that door.”
When she emerged several minutes later, her little angel was still standing there with his hand clutching one of my crutches in a death grip. I told her that I had tried to get him to let go of it several times but every time I asked, he always quickly turned his head away and said nothing.
When she asked him why, he said, with perfect reasoning, “You told me to never do anything a stranger asks.”
So I have to wonder. When Tiny Tim wandered through the streets of Victorian London, did anyone ever kick his crutch out from under him, or I am I the only one having a “Dickens of a time?”