Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pit Crew

There was a guy who was a member of my pit crew many years back who lifted me out of my wheelchair one day and let out this blood-curdling howl. It scared the crap out of me. I thought he’d ruptured a disc, popped a hernia, ripped a major artery and who knows what else. When he set me down I asked if he was all right. He shrugged and nodded. He said he’d been reading up on martial arts and decided to summon maximum strength when he lifted me by issuing a karate yell. But he didn’t do it all the time. He did it randomly and without warning and each time I’d freak out anew for a hot second until I remembered. One time he let out a yelp as he lifted me onto an airplane and the fight crew looked on in horror, as if they thought he’d ruptured a disc, popped a hernia, ripped a major artery and who knows what else.

The moral of the story is that people who work in a cripple’s pit crew are always quirky. Even the good ones who stick around. They’re always quirky. My sister had a pit crew person who seemed perfectly sane and balanced. The young woman was punctual and hard-working and even-tempered. But she claimed, with an absolute straight face, that Dan Akroyd was her live-in lover (and distant cousin). She always talked about the cute little thing Dan said or did today. When you called her answering machine, you heard, “Hello, Susie and Dan aren’t home…..”

People who work in a cripple’s pit crew are always quirky. It’s the nature of the game. It’s a nesting place for odd birds. I had a pit crew guy who had green hair matted up in homemade dreadlocks. I had another guy who was covered in tattoos and wore skirts and tights to work. Tending to a cripple is a quirky job. My cripple friend Jeff got tethered to a breathing ventilator long, long ago, back when ventilators were as big and bulky as a microwave oven. Nowadays, ventilators are a lot more portable but back then Jeff had to commandeer one of those old double-decker audio/visual carts on wheels. And if he wanted to go anywhere, to a store or a bar or wherever, his pit crew guy plunked the breathing apparatus onto the cart and pushed it alongside Jeff as he drove through the crowded city in his motorized wheelchair.

If you’re going to work in a cripple’s pit crew, you have to be ready to do quirky stuff like that.  And you have to be dead-on reliable and punctual, because there’s a cripple in bed waiting for you to get them up. And you have to at least be honest enough not to seize the many opportunities you’ll have to steal all of our shit. And you have to work for the rock-bottom crap wages paid by the state. And there’s no upward mobility. It’s not like someday you’ll become regional vice president in charge of washing my armpits.

And above all, you can’t be all Mother Teresa about it all. No selfless martyrs please. There’s a home help agency around here called Visiting Angels. What a horrifying name! I’d sooner hire an agency called Visiting Chronically Underemployed Conspiracy Theorists Who Rant on Ad Nauseum. Even they’d be more fun to be around. Is there anything more suffocatingly tedious than spending all day with an angel? You can’t tell a dirty joke to an angel. In the presence of an angel, one cannot fart.

It takes a unique sort to be a pit crew person. It’s not a job for the completely unskewed.