Sunday, January 6, 2019
Back when I was a wee criplet wisp, about kindergarten-sized, I had a wee wisp of a wheelchair that was called either a Hoak chair or a Hope chair. I called it a Hoak chair because that’s what I thought the adults around me called it. But when I think back, I wonder if maybe they were calling it a Hope chair. I guess I’ll never know.
The Hoak/Hope chair was a two-wheeled thing that was pretty much a hand truck, like the kind beer truck drivers use to tote beer into a store. They load cases of beer onto the hand truck, tilt it back and push the cargo forward. Except the Hoak/Hope chair was a hand truck with a seat and seatbelt attached. Yep, someone sat me on the seat and buckled me up and toted me forward like cases of beer. Or sometimes they’d reach back and pull me forward from behind like a suitcase and I viewed the passing landscape rolling by backwards, like I was watching through a car rear window.
It must’ve been called a Hope chair because why would it be called a Hoak chair? Unless maybe it was invented by somebody named Hoak. And maybe this Hoak character had a crippled kid way back in the day when the only wheelchairs were those Frannklin Roosevelt models made of wood and wicker and they didn’t make them criplet-sized. And maybe Hoak was a beer truck driver and one day while hauling in the beer a cerebral light bulb went off. And Hoak named this humanitarian invention eponymously.
But then again, it could just as easily have been invented by somebody named Smith or Chang or Kowalski and they called it a Hope chair because it brought new Hope to criplets around the world. Because back in those days, that chair was probably the state of the art in criplet hauling devices.
I haven’t seen a Hoak/Hope chair in about 55 years. Thank God things have changed a lot and cripples don’t have to be hauled around in public in such an undignified manner anymore. Well, not unless we want to fly somewhere on one of the airlines. Then they take away our wheelchairs and stuff them in the luggage hole after they transfer us into an adult-sized Hoak/Hope chair. It’s not exactly designed for optimum crippled passenger comfort. It’s shaped like the stern lowercase letter h of some rigid, no-nonsense font. One size fits none.
The airlines call this chair a boarding or aisle chair. It must have been invented by somebody named Boarding or Aisle who delights in torturing cripples. Maybe they used to drive a beer truck.
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