Some people wonder if I want to know what it feels like to run a mile or climb a tree. Sure, I’m curious. But I have never had the physical ability to do either one. And I’ve found that, for the most part, people don’t miss experiences that they haven’t had. In my case, though, there is an exception to that rule. I really wish I could drive.
For me, it is about more than getting from point A to point B. My not driving means that there are very few places that I can go by myself. I am dependent on the willingness and schedules of other people to accomplish what I need to get done in a day. That can be frustrating. In fact, the helplessness and heartache sometimes make me want to scream.
It would be easy to look at my life and come to the conclusion that it shouldn’t matter. I have caregivers to drive me to the various appointments and errands that I have, and most are happy to do so. I get that, and I appreciate all that they do for me. Really. However, not driving myself means that I have to schedule everything in advance. Spontaneity goes out the window. I can never decide to go to a 7:30 movie at 7:15. And sometimes that just sucks. Royally. No two ways about it.
There have been several times in my life when I tried to learn how to drive. At one point, I took enough lessons to get my license. I used hand controls, which are metal extensions on the gas and brake pedals that are connected to the steering wheel. Both the gas and the brake are on the same lever because you use the other hand to steer. You push down on the gas and in toward the floor for the brake. Easy enough, right?
Well, a couple weeks after I passed my driving test, I was out and about one night with a friend of mine. He told me to slow down and turn left. I got confused and hit the gas instead of the brake. It did not end well. I hit the sign outside of a bank and twisted it, along with my car, into a pretzel.
The next day I went into the bank and talked to the manager.
“Hello, I am really sorry. I am the one who hit the sign outside”. Her response came without skipping a beat.
“In your wheelchair?”
I laughed all the way home. My insurance company didn’t. They dropped my policy because I had an accident within 60 days of being insured. My driving days were over pretty much as soon as they started. And now I only use my license only as a valid form of ID.
My disability has enabled me to do many amazing things. When I was younger I excelled in wheelchair sports and completed a marathon. These days I am active in wheelchair ballroom dance and I advocate on behalf of myself and others with disabilities every chance that I get. I wouldn’t want to trade those experiences for the ability to walk. My situation has taught me patience, perseverance, and persistence in ways I don’t think I would have learned otherwise. Those are all good lessons.
But most importantly, my cerebral palsy has taught me that my “drive,” needs to come from within.