Crossing the Bridge (part I)


It was 6:00 p.m. and it was the first day of September, and I set out on my three-wheel electric scooter and headed north.  I had only lived in the neighborhood for six weeks and had been exploring slowly and steadily.  “North” took me past the Bank of New York’s secure facility, and the Canada geese on its front pond, and then to Carrier Circle.  Six o’clock in the evening is not really a terrific time to go on a traffic circle on a scooter that runs—full throttle—4.25 miles per hour, so I addressed the alternative:  the bridge.

            I had seen the bridge before.  It was not a terribly big bridge but neither was it a particularly small bridge.  It was—I was pretty sure—a bridge over the New York State Thruway.  Mostly, what I was sure of was that it was a bridge with a lot of big, heavy traffic—tractor-trailer traffic—and not much that looked good in the way of a shoulder.  I like a good shoulder on my roads.

            I’m pretty sure that I can ride my scooter on the highway—after all, bicycles go on highways, don’t they?  I got on the Internet and went to the NYS Dept. of Transportation website and typed in “scooter.”  I got nothing.  Nada.  No rules, regulations or guidelines for scooters.  Lots of stuff for bicycles but nothing for scooters, so I’m on my own, making up the rules for this.

            Actually, I have some help.  The residence I moved into is a HUD property for the disabled; not the old—the disabled.  We are a randy, feisty bunch, us disabled folks.  There is not one of us who doesn’t have a story to tell:  “I was dead when they picked me up on the side of the road”; “I was on life-support for a month”; “It took me three years to get out of the hospital.”  Most of our stories include the words:  “They said I’d never survive,” but we did.  All of us.

            I used to live in a HUD property for the elderly and disabled—three disabled and thirty-seven elderly people.  I never heard such pissing and moaning in my whole entire life.  Some old woman gets a cramp in her gut and you might think she was dying for all the complaining she does.  Where I live now, we don’t complain.  This is the good stuff; there’s not much to complain about.  We’re alive.  We had a choice, and we made it back.

            When I moved in here, I was accustomed—after three years with the freaking old women—to being the one who was a mover and doer.  I was the one who said, “Why don’t we start a book club?”  “How about going on the historic tour?”  “What do you say—does anybody want to play cards?”  The answers were “No,” “No,” and “No.”  Nobody wanted to do anything.  The old ladies only wanted to do two things:  complain about their health, and gossip about each other.  Complain and gossip, gossip and complain.  That can—and did—get old fast, so I moved out.

            When I moved into this place, it took Carol from upstairs about two days to invite me on a tour of the neighborhood.  Carol has an electric wheelchair, four grandchildren and no legs.  She dares me.  “Why not go to the Regional Market?”  “Are you going to go to the New York State Fair?”  “You must join us for breakfast—sure, we go up on Carrier Circle—why not?”  The message was simple and direct:  Life is to be lived.  You have an electric scooter—what are you waiting for?

So it is 6:00 p.m. on the first day of September and I set out on my electric scooter, headed north.  I pass the Bank of New York, Carrier Circle, and the East Syracuse Fire Department, then I come to the bridge.  Sooner or later, you always come to the bridge.  That’s life.  Then you have to decide if you’re going to cross the bridge.  Are you going to live or are you going to die?  Choose one.  So I go over the bridge.

            No big deal.  The shoulder’s wide enough, and who cares about the tractor-trailers?  They’ve got their space; I’ve got mine.  There is nothing special on the other side of the bridge—just life, as it happens.  A health and fitness club, some nice comfy houses, a gift barn.  There are folks sitting on their front porches, mowing their lawns, pulling weeds.  There’s a deli with picnic tables, a small motor repair shop, and a farm produce store.  I cross two main highways and pass the ramp to the Interstate.  I go by a Dunkin Donuts, a new business park, and a sign that says, “Road closed—local traffic only.”  How local is local, I wonder?  Six houses down the road, I discover I have just passed the end of local and arrived where the road is totally blocked for construction, so at 6:55 p.m., I turn and head back, expecting to get home before dark.

            It is a nice night but getting chilly, so I stop at the Dunkin Donuts to order coffee.  Some guy in a pickup truck cuts past me to get to the drive-in window first.  My, my, aren’t we impressed with how big he is?  The donut guy already has my order so he brings it out the back door, takes my money and returns with change.  He’s a nice kid with pimples, and we agree that the pickup guy is a total jerk.  I noodle on my way.  It is 7:35 p.m. and the sun is halfway below the horizon when I get to the bridge.  I start up the bridge—and lose power.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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