Sunday, April 27, 2014

Helen Keller Admiration

On the one hand there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as superstar quarterback admiration. On the other hand there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as Helen Keller admiration.

And make no mistake, there’s a shitload of Helen Keller admiration out there. Gallup took a poll to determine the most admired people of the 20th Century and Helen Keller came in fifth, just ahead of FDR.

But still, Helen Keller admiration just doesn’t stack up when measured against superstar quarterback admiration. Ask yourself this: Does anyone want to be that superstar quarterback they admire so much? And the answers you get to choose from are a) yes b) yes c) yes d) all of the above. Tons of children dress up like that superstar quarterback and pretend to be him. So do tons of adults. But even the people who most deeply admire Helen Keller don’t say to themselves, “Boy, I sure hope someday I’ll be deaf and blind like her.” Children don’t plug up their ears and wear blindfolds and pretend to be Helen Keller. Adults never dress up like Helen Keller, except maybe as part of some kinky sex fantasy role-playing game. But for our purposes today, that doesn’t count.

On the third hand, there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as war hero admiration. War hero admiration falls somewhere between superstar quarterback admiration and Helen Keller admiration. People who admire war heroes would like to live the life a war hero lives, but only up to a certain point. Like for instance, there’s a city park here in Chicago that’s named after a war hero. This guy became a war hero when he sacrificed his life to save the platoon by throwing himself on a live hand grenade. Now let’s all admit that we all have something deep inside of us that would love to have a city park named in our honor. But if we have to throw ourselves on a live hand grenade in order to earn that status, we don’t want it that bad. We’ll continue living our ordinary, unheroic lives. Thanks anyway though.

When it comes to war hero admiration, we’d all love to live the hero part of their lives, if we could somehow bypass the war part. Still, that’s more than we can say for Helen Keller admiration. Is admiration even the right word for how humans today feel about Helen Keller? Can we call it admiration when our warm regard for someone is surpassed only by our gratitude that we are not them? I don’t know. I’ll leave that for the great philosophers to decide.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kids Can Run Bases After Every Sunday Game at Wrigley

And that applies to ANY kid under 15. ANY kid at all.

Kids today are so spoiled. In my day, you had to be a “special” kid like me before the adults would even consider letting you do something as wildly frivolous as running the bases after a game at Wrigley. “Special” kids were the ones who sometimes got “special” treatment, sort of like Make-a-Wish kids.

It never occurred to me to put running the bases after a game at Wrigley on my “special” kid bucket list. It would have been considered a mighty tall order at the time. But maybe the Kiwanis or someone might have arranged it. If so it would have been me, just me, out there pushing my wheelchair around the diamond. Nobody else but me! Or maybe the players would take turns pushing my chair like a relay race. And all the plain old unspecial kids would feel jealous as hell!

But now, in this new era of permissiveness, pretty much any kid can run the bases. All they have to do is show up. And that ups the ante for “special” kids of the 21st Century. If they want to maintain their elevated “special” status, they have to get really creative with their bucket lists. They have to demand an exclusive day at Disneyland where no one is allowed in except them and their VIP entourage. And this “special” day must include a private brunch with Goofy.

It used to be, when I was a criplet, that the purpose of childhood was to prepare children for the misery of adulthood. Thus, all the big obligatory things kids had to do, like going to school and church, had to feel like punishment. In church, the adults lined kids up to eat a piece of our Lord and Savior. And we received a communion wafer that tasted like notebook paper. But why couldn’t the wafers taste like pizza or Oreos or any number of yummy treats? Surely the technology existed to make that happen. It would have given kids something about going to church to look forward to. We could compare notes after communion: “I got pizza! What did you get?” We’d turn it into a competition. You know how kids are about stuff like that. Be the first one to taste all 31 communion wafer flavors! Make a checklist! Kids would have raced each other to church every day to receive communion.

But the adults seemed to believe that if going to school or church was at all satisfying or pleasurable, it would be a grave disservice to the children in their charge. Because if children expected going to church or school to be in some small way pleasurable and satisfying, then, as adults, they might expect going to work to be in some small way pleasurable and satisfying. And that would be setting these children up for profound disappointment.

But when it came to “special” kids, the adults in charge sometimes relaxed and arranged for us to do something fun just for the pure sake of having fun. Maybe they figured we weren’t going to make it to adulthood anyway so there wasn’t any risk that frolicking with frivolity would leave us scarred.

I guess nowadays all kids are automatically granted the status of “special” without even earning it by being crippled. I fear this inevitably means that soon criplets will no longer experience the joy of making all the plain old unspecial kids feel jealous as hell.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cripple Quotient

There are two kinds of cripples: There are those whose degree of crippledness is quantifiable and then there are all the rest of us.

They best example of quantifiable cripples are those we used to refer to with a word that begins with the letter “r." It is no longer acceptable to use that word under any circumstances, except possibly when referring to materials that are almost, but not completely, fireproof. This group of people is now called ID, which stands for intellectually disabled. That doesn’t sound a whole lot better than “r” but that’s the best we’ve got for now.

Anyway, ID people are very quantifiable. We give them a test to determine their Intelligence Quotient. And then we give them a number which tells everyone exactly how ID each ID person is. This comes in very handy in many ways, especially in helping state governments determine which ID people should qualify to receive certain state services. For instance, the state of Florida uses IQ scores to decide which ID people who commit murder are eligible to be executed by lethal injection. If your IQ is above 70, you’re toast. Currently, in the case of Hall v. Florida, the state is fighting in the U.S. Supreme Court for its right to execute a convicted murderer with an IQ of 71.

So you see, by being so very quantifiable, ID people make it easier for the rest of us to not judge them based on blanket assumptions of who they are. It helps us understand that not all ID people are the same. And isn’t that what all cripples want? We want to be judged not by perceptions about our crippling conditions but by our individual competencies and aptitudes.

The quickest way to facilitate that level of understanding is to quantify it, to create a scale that gives our level of physical crippledness a numeric value. This would give those who are baffled by us a scorecard, if you will, with which to tell us apart. Like for instance, take me. Suppose someone sees me and they don’t know what the hell to make of me. They can see I’m in a wheelchair, so should they speak loud when they talk to me? Or should they speak to me at all? Should they only address the walking person with me, aka my nurse?

A lot of this confusion could be alleviated if there was a standardized physical incompetency test like the IQ test through which the currently unquantifiable crippledness of cripples like me could be quantified. This would determine our Cripple Quotient or CQ. Then, by knowing my CQ score, even a complete stranger would have a much better idea of what I can and can’t do and where I fall on the vast cripple spectrum. Never again will they have to ask themselves questions like, “I wonder if he can have sex?”Having sex would be part of every adult CQ exam and our performance in this area would factor heavily into the calculation of our CQ score.

Now I know you’re asking what good having a CQ score would be if no one else knows what it is. Well you see, when a cripple obtains a CQ score they would then have to wear a football jersey at all times and the number on that jersey is their CQ score.

Once we figure out how to quantify all cripples, uncrippled people won’t be nearly so intimidated by the task of figuring out what we’re all about. They won’t always have to get to know us the old fashioned way, by hanging out with us and talking to us and having sex with us. Who’s got time for that?

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Letter from the Department of Human Services

A letter arrived with a return address of the Department of Human Services. My heart sank, as it always does when a letter arrives with a return address of the Department of Human Services.

Here’s how it feels: Did you ever get a letter from the IRS? Your heart sinks and you’re afraid to open the envelope, right? Because you automatically assume that whatever the IRS wants from you, it ain’t good. Because the IRS never writes just to say, “Thank you for paying your taxes. You are such a wonderful citizen. We wish we had 50 million more just like you.” It’s the same with the Department of Human Services. They never write just to say, “We’re having a wonderful time in Barbados. Wish you were here.”

The Department of Human Services pays the wages of the members of my pit crew. Those are the guys I hire to drag my ass in and out of bed, lift me onto the crapper, do my laundry, etc. Maybe this letter was to inform me that in order to remain eligible, I will now have to be piss tested. A lot of people have to take a piss test in order to avail themselves of certain public services. Let me rephrase that. A lot of POOR people have to take a piss test in order to avail themselves of certain public services, such as people who live in public housing. Rich people never have to take a piss test. And rich people avail themselves of public services as much as anyone. Every time rich people drive down a public street or flush the damn toilet they are availing themselves of public services. When rich people use the public court system to seal the deal on their megamergers, the judge never says, “I’ll be delighted to seal the deal on your megamerger, right after you take a piss test,”

Or maybe the Department of Human Services was writing to inform me that I broke one of their rules. It’s easy enough for them to spy on me. These days there are drones that are the size of a fruit fly. That’s why whenever I see a fruit fly in my house I smash it with a hammer and then burn it and then flush the ashes down the toilet. You can’t be too careful. Maybe a spy drone saw it when one of my pit crew guys clipped my nails. A home health aide once told me she wasn’t allowed to clip nails because that’s a “medical task” to be performed by a nurse. Another home health aide told me she couldn’t put a pill in my mouth for the same reason. So maybe a Department of Human Services spy drone caught one of my pit crew guys putting a pill in my mouth and the letter says I am no longer eligible for services because I broke a rule so now I’ll soon be homeless and friendless and penniless and I’ll freeze to death under a bridge.

After a couple days, I got up the guts to open the envelope. Enclosed with the letter was something that looked like a quiz or something—a list of multiple choice questions. “In order to better serve you,” the letter said, “please complete and return this customer satisfaction survey.”

What the fuck, Department of Human Services! Why do you go around scaring the hell out of people like that? As I read the letter, I bet they watched me through their fruit fly spy drone and laughed their asses off at the look on my face.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Openly Crippled

I am openly crippled. “No shit,” I hear my inner heckler say. “Once again you demonstrate your amazing ability to grasp the obvious.”

Ah but there’s a big difference between being obviously crippled and being openly crippled. One can be as obviously crippled as Stephen Hawking with his head cut off and still not be openly crippled.

Here’s what I mean. Think about gay people. More specifically, think about Liberace. He was so bloody obviously gay but he wasn’t openly gay.

Cripples become openly crippled when we decide we’re not going to apologize anymore for being crippled. That’s the day we’re born again. I suppose it’s the same when you become openly anything else, like openly gay or openly fat or openly poor or openly whatever.

A huge weight is lifted when we become openly crippled. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows from there. When people get pissed off at us for being openly crippled, it’s never the crippled part that pisses them off. It’s the openly part. When we impose our crippledness on others we’re supposed to at least be contrite about. At least pretend that we wouldn’t be who we are if we had any choice in the matter. Again, I suppose it’s the same when you’re gay or poor or fat or whatever.

I became openly crippled about 30 years ago when I took up the sport of public transportation bus blocking. This sport was invented in other cities by cripples who were disgusted because they wanted to ride public transportation like everyone else but the buses weren’t accessible. So they rolled their wheelchairs out onto the streets and blocked buses in protest until the powers that be relented and made public transportation accessible.

Hearing stories about the bus blocking brigades was exciting, but it gave me a bad case of political blue balls. I was all worked up and ready for action but I had no means of release. Fortunately, there were other cripples in my town suffering from the same political malady and we found each other and formed our own bus blocking franchise.

I got the same thrill out of bus blocking that some people get out of deer hunting. I’d bag a bus and I’d hoot and holler. Too bad I couldn’t take it home and mount it on my wall.

And of course, by being so openly crippled and all, some people got pissed off at us. One woman screamed, “You all gotta move! I gotta get to Jenny Craig!” I said, “Don’t worry. You don’t need it.” She stormed off. But I meant it as a compliment.

The older and more crippled I become, the more openly crippled I become. But I’m still a work in progress. I haven’t completely reached the point where I never give an utter shit about being considered a societal inconvenience. I hope I live long enough to see that day.