So last week I’m visiting a relative in a nursing home, okay? I say good-bye. I head for the elevator. A white-haired man wearing a tie and a crisp new dress shirt arrives at the elevator. He enters the code using the number pad on the wall above the elevator buttons. You have to know the code if you want to take the elevator. That’s how they keep the inmates from escaping. The elevator opens. The man steps in. I roll in behind him. His face constricts with suspicion. “Are you allowed to be in here?” he says to me.
Dammit! This is what happens when I dare go to nursing homes unaccompanied by a walking person! It’s inevitable that someday I’ll visit someone in a nursing home and they’ll never let me out! A few years back I visited a friend in a nursing home and as I was leaving, the rent-a-cop security guard at the front door asked me where I was going. I knew what he was implying. I told him it was none of his damn business where I was going, because I wasn’t. He refused to open the door until a nurse came down and vouched for me.
The guy with the new dress shirt obviously did not have a discerning eye when it comes to cripples. Otherwise he would have known I wasn’t an inmate. Didn’t he see my Dave Brubeck t-shirt? When you land in a nursing home wearing nothing but a hospital gown, they give you a new wardrobe, fished fresh from their rummage sack. But you never get anything as cool as a Dave Brubeck t-shirt. You get sweat pants and washed out, bedraggled t-shirts bearing old advertising catch phrases like I’M A PEPPPER.
And I use a motorized wheelchair, too. That should have been a dead giveaway that I was the kind of cripple who could be trusted riding elevators. The inmates all sat in their standard-issue wheelbarrows, those one-size-fits-nobody hospital wheelchairs.
And if nothing else, the white-haired man definitely should have known that I wasn’t an inmate by the fact that I didn’t’ smell like a horse. In nursing homes, cripples only get two showers a week. If I only got two showers a week I’d smell like a horse.
Before I visit a nursing home alone again, I’d better have my lawyer draw up some sort of notarized affidavit confirming that I am indeed a free cripple, in case I am ordered to show my papers.
Or maybe I’ll always bring along someone who can walk. They don’t hassle me in nursing homes when Rahnee is with me. Rahnee walks funny, but at least she walks, which gives her that certain legitimacy I lack.
At the very least, if I ever visit a nursing home alone again, I’ll first notify my closest, most trusted associates. And I’ll tell them if they don’t hear back from me by sundown, please call the SWAT team.