Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dave Boffo’s Existential Hell

Sebastian jumped into the driver’s seat of my adapted cripple van.
“Let’s get out of here before the police show up!” he said. He stepped on the gas and we sped away.

A few minutes earlier, Sebastian had accidentally locked me in my van with the keys inside for about the fifth time. He never meant to do it. He was just spacey about that sort of thing. And every time he locked me in I said to myself: Welcome to Dave Boffo’s Existential Hell!

Boffo was a great cripple buddy from the 1970s. One night a bunch of us went out drinking. Danny Martin gave Boffo a ride home. Martin lifted Boffo into the front seat of his car, folded his wheelchair and tossed it in the back seat. Martin stopped at Dunkin,’ Donuts because he had a late night craving. Martin got back in the car and choked on the donut. And he kept choking and Boffo freaked because couldn’t just jump up and give Martin the Heimlich or anything like that. Boffo couldn’t even move his arms. So this is what went through Boffo’s head as he watched Martin choke:

“Oh great! This is just fucking great! So this is how it ends. Martin turns blue and falls over dead on my lap. And I can’t even lift my fucking arms and this place is open 24 hours so nobody will even notice that a car has been parked here for weeks and no one will find us until they smell something funny and trace it back to this car and find us both decomposing! Listen here, God, if you insist on Martin dying by choking on a Dunkin’ Donut, at least make him fall forward so he lands on the horn!”

I have found myself trapped in Dave Boffo’s Existential Hell more than once whilst sitting on the crapper. The guy puts me on the bowl. “Call me when you’re finished,” he says. He closes the bathroom door and leaves me alone with my magazine. He waits on the living room couch. And after about 10 minutes I call. No response. And I call. And I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal! No response.

So this is what goes through my head:

“Oh great! This is just fucking great! So this is how it ends. He’s asleep on the couch. He might not wake up til Tuesday! Or maybe he won’t wake up at all. Maybe he sat down on the couch and popped an aneurysm! And no one will find us until they smell something funny and……. etc.”

Sometimes when we’re out driving in my current adapted cripple van Rahnee will say “I need to run into the store real quick for (fill in the blank).” I’m in the parking lot alone in the van and my wheelchair is bolted down in the safety lock and I can’t move my arms enough to unlock the door either. And I should know better than to panic when Rahnee doesn’t come back right away because when she says she’s running into the store real quick for (fill in the blank) she never returns with just (fill in the blank). But after about 10 minutes, this is what goes through my head:

“Oh great! This is just fucking great! So this is how it ends. She probably went to the dog food aisle and popped an aneurysm! And no one will find me until they smell something funny and……. etc.”

Once when Sebastian locked me in the van, he set out on foot seeking help. I was plummeting through Dave Boffo’s Existential Hell, convinced something would happen and he’d never return, when suddenly he appeared with a stranger who had his own slim jim and they freed me.

The time Sebastian jumped into the driver’s seat and said, “Let’s get out of here before the police show up!” he had locked in not just me but also Anna, my late first wife. Sebastian set out on foot seeking help. I guess he couldn’t find a stranger with a slim jim so at a loss for what else to do he called 911. “I locked a man in a wheelchair in a van!” He told the dispatcher. “Yeah,” he said. “And I’ve done it before! Many times! All over the city! And this time I locked in two people in wheelchairs” The dispatcher said she’d send the police right away and as soon as he hung up, Sebastian realized he must have sounded like some bizarre mass murderer ready to turn himself in and lead police to all the shallow graves. But instead he would lead them to abandoned adapted cripple vans all over the city and inside would be skeletons in wheelchairs.

Meanwhile, Anna wiggled around enough to unlock a door. So Sebastian jumped in and we sped away. Imagine the frustration of the police to discover the sick psychopath escaped. And to this day he’s still at large.


  1. Add chronic respiratory insufficiency to paralysis, and you get claustrophobia and ... P A N I C.

    Whenever my wife leaves me in the van, I make her open the doors. That way at least I can let the lift down and get out.

    Shall we discuss elevators?

    Closed doors while in bed?

    CAT scan machines?

  2. A basic status update system is the common walkie talkie, your caregiver carries one, the other is on the dashboard or wherever. Periodically the caregiver radios a status update so you don't spiral into a psychological hell after ten minutes. That's a long time to be sitting by yourself without something to read.

  3. And as for you talking back, some clever person could rig up a timer with a servo to press in the talk button such that every so often you could make a short statement to your caregiver. Say, every five minutes the servo would let you talk for 30 seconds.

    Wait, I think they make them voice activated that would sorta solve the communication problem. Gotta get a decent one though so there's enough power to do the job.

  4. This is why my service dog in-training's first tasks will be "speak," to get someone's attention. I hate the "I really have to pee and my kidneys are backing up but no one can hear me and I can't roll over and he was supposed to leave a phone but forgot or my shoulder won't move" start to the day.

  5. Mike, I miss those times a lot from time to time. I miss Bob, and Phil, and Danny and Andrea. Dave Boffo and you and Pete Muzzy and Ron Balsamo and--well, too many others, male and female, to name here now.

    I'm working on plans to visit my sister Amy later this summer in Chicago. Can I look you up? Wanna have a beer?

    Thanks for bringing a smile and a tear to my face this late, late night. Hope you're doing well.

    Dave Macak
    Lansing, Michigan
    517 712 5652
    ...and on Facebook....

    If Danny Martin, Pat Wozny, Maria Brown, and Mary Frandsen are around, I'd love to see them, too--and probably some others besides. Is Danny on FB, or does he have to avoid it because of work?

  6. Wonderful.
    I've made a number of toasts to Boffo since reading this last night (Any excuse for a fine toast; it's so much less alcoholic sounding...)
    Maria Brown was with us last night at Staci's Dad's services and we had a good mini-Boffo retrospective.
    This afternoon I recited "The Legend of Boffo at the Mall" for a group of people at the memorial lunch who have a a gimp sister-in-law who was probably at camp at some point.
    Boffo had the best leer man ever achieved. God love 'im.
    Calls for another toast.
    Thanks, Mike.

  7. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
    Mike, turns out we actually might know each other (Chris Smit here again, my brother is Randy) and I think we went to Hastings together, M.D. a camp in Chicago? Crazy. Let's talk.

  8. Hey, was it really 5 times? I dunno, I only remeber 3, but yeah, the one on your 40th birthday was a doozy.

    Still haven't looked into those remote key fobs, eh?

  9. Enjoyed. If I find myself dying of an aneurysm I'm sure I'll think of your funny story (it was funny, right?) as my last thought and I'll die with a smile on my face and that should freak out the coroner and his crew.