Thursday, December 19, 2013

It Was All Fun and Games Until the Hamster Died

These criplets today, I tell you, they’ve really got it made. They have no idea how lucky they are! They zip around so fast in their fancy power wheelchairs, it’s like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.

They’re so damn pampered. When I was their age, the first power wheelchairs had just come out. And they were powered by hamsters! Yep, welded to each rear axle was a hamster wheel and when I pushed the joystick it administered a small electric shock to the hamsters and they sprinted in place in their hamster wheels, thus spinning the axles and propelling the chair. Compared to these kids today, our chairs were as fast and nimble as a hippopotamus. But I didn’t care! I loved it! I was free as a bird. No more being at the mercy of others to come push me. I could go anywhere any time, just like an adult!

It was all fun and games until the hamster died. When that happened, I experienced my first head butt from a bureaucracy, just like an adult. I was unaware of the infamous Medicaid “three hamster rule” imposed by Congress. This meant Medicaid could pay for no more than three replacement hamsters per person per year. Are you kidding me? A hyper teenager like me could go through three hamsters a week!

Some kids had parents with enough money to buy them a whole shit load of hamsters so when one hamster croaked they could just pop in a spare. But my parents sure as hell weren’t rich like that. Hamsters didn’t grow on trees you know! I fantasized of the day when I’d be rich enough to have my own hamster ranch and I could tell Medicaid to go fuck itself! Or maybe I’d have packs of Iditarod dogs to pull me and my chair around.

But kids like me were stranded when our hamster died.  We were pretty damn desperate so we’d try anything to get rolling again. Some kids tried makeshift measures, like using gerbils instead of hamsters. Gerbils were a lot cheaper, but they didn’t have a hamster’s horsepower. It was so sad to see a kid in a gerbil-powered chair creeping along in slow motion. Everybody could tell that was a poor kid on Medicaid.

There were times when, in order to acquire a new hamster, I had to do some pretty humiliating things. Some adults were willing to hook me up with a new hamster if I participated in degrading acts with them. I had no choice but to submit. Like for instance, a local car dealership organized a “hamster drive” for me. Come to the showroom Saturday and contribute to a poor stranded crippled boy’s hamster fund. And they made a big spectacle out of it, with balloons and clowns and cheerleaders and a marching band. And I sat next to the donation barrel, dressed like an elf. And whenever someone dropped a little something into the barrel, the band struck up a fanfare.

 I’m not proud of it, but back in those days, that’s the kind of thing a criplet like me had to do to keep moving. These criplets today, I swear, they have it so soft.