My independence stick was a dowel rod about three feet long and one half inch in diameter. Protruding from the tip was a small brass hook. Covering the hook was a makeshift sleeve of soft translucent-brown rubber that looked like a snippet of catheter tube circa 1969.
Because I had my independence stick, that meant I had my elevator independence, which meant I could use the elevators unescorted. That’s how it worked at the state boarding school for cripples. I went there from 1969 to 1974. Let’s call the boarding school the Sam Houston Institute of Technology. There’s no reason not to call it by its real name. I just like the more appropriate acronym that forms. It captures the quality of the education at the cripple boarding school.
The way to acquire your elevator independence at SHIT was to prove to an occupational therapist that you could operate the elevator. If you couldn’t reach the buttons then you tried various lengths of independence sticks until you found one right for you. The hook was there so you could pull down the red switch on top that stopped the elevator. It was to be used only in case of emergency. And the catheter tube sleeve was there so the hook wouldn’t be so slippery against the plastic buttons and switch.
The shorter your independence stick the cooler you were. In this regard they were unlike penises. If your independence stick was long that meant you weren’t strong like those paraplegic basketball players with their gorilla upper bodies and limp puppet legs. Those guys could reach up to all the buttons and the switch without using an independence stick at all.
My independence stick was probably the longest independence stick in the entire recorded history of independence sticks. It was embarrassing. But with it, I was a free man. I could use the elevator unaccompanied, as long as I told one of the “houseparents” where I was going and got their permission. But my independence stick, and thus my elevator independence, could be easily taken away if I ”abused” my independence by going to an unauthorized area, using the elevator without permission or violating any other of a long list of stated and unstated rules. Using the elevator at SHIT wasn’t an inalienable right, you know. It was a privilege.
But it was right after I earned my independence stick that I started making out with Eleanor Roosevelt. (SMART ASS CRIPPLE ALIAS ALERT! Once again we will use a pseudonym so as not to out the innocent. If it was to become known in the circles of the real “Eleanor Roosevelt” that she was once an inmate in state cripple boarding school making out with the likes of me, it could do irreparable damage to her personal and professional reputation and maybe even ruin her credit rating.)
Eleanor Roosevelt was an African American girl in a wheelchair. She had a big swooping scoliosis. She was 12. I was 13. I think it was my independence stick that turned her on about me. She never talked to me much until I had one.
Once I had an independence stick she asked me if I wanted to make out. Sure! I’d never made out before. But where? How could we possibly find a secret place to make out in a cripple boarding school? Eleanor Roosevelt lured me over to the elevator. When the coast was clear, she pushed the button. The door opened. She went inside. I followed though my stomach burned with fear. Already I was abusing my independence. Not only was I going to an unauthorized area without permission, but Eleanor Roosevelt was too young to have elevator independence. You had to be 13.
But I couldn’t resist. Eleanor Roosevelt was a wicked temptress. Like a love zombie, I handed her my independence stick. She pushed a button but when we were between floors she pulled down the switch with the hook and the elevator stopped with a bounce.
And that’s where we made out. Eleanor Roosevelt was cool and in control, like she’d made out a thousand times before. But I was full of hot confusion. I was actually making out, which made me as cool as or even cooler than those paraplegics! But I was sure to pay a harsh price. Any second now the escape hatch on the ceiling of the elevator was going to open and a stern houseparent would descend in on a rope, seize my independence stick and break it over her knee.
Eleanor Roosevelt and I made out in the cripple boarding school elevator four of five times. But each time I was like a nervous cat, popping my head up and looking around wide-eyed with each little real or imagined sound from beyond.
I guess that’s why Eleanor Roosevelt soon lost interest in making out with me in the elevator. What did she expect from a guy with such a long independence stick?
And then poof, she was gone, transferred out to another school.
I never saw Eleanor Roosevelt again.