How to have a badass image

For those who were depressed by my last post, this one has a partial solution (even though it wouldn't really work in a rainstorm).

I'm told that my family thought I was a whiner when I was a child. My feet always hurt and I always cried about it. I grew up being told I had low pain tolerance. As it turned out, I don't. I have problems with the bones in my legs and they hurt... a lot when I walk more than a mile or two.

But believing that I had low pain tolerance I was sometimes confused. When I was in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador writing an article for The Christian Science Monitor on the construction of oil pipeline and the environmental fallout, I ran my foot into a metal grate and sliced a three inch gash across my big toe. The thing bled like you wouldn't believe but it didn't hurt that much. A storekeeper ran out and poured dry, instant coffee mix on my wound, which did make it stop bleeding. 

My interpreter was in shock and panicking. He got a taxi and we drove to a local clinic. When I looked out the window, I saw a rundown, dirty, Third World clinic and by then my brain was starting to kick in. This was the rain forest, an area with super bacteria. I had been told by other gringos that I had better not get hurt while I was down in the jungle or I'd be in deep trouble. And this was only the second day of my two-week stay in the humid, bacteria-rich rain forest. I could not afford an infected foot. 

I refused to go to the clinic and instead went back the little sweaty room where I had stashed my pack, including a very good first-aid kit. I cleaned and disinfected the wound with iodine and then bandaged it while my interpreter watched, wide eyed. Finally at the end he said, "You're badass." I blinked at him in surprise.

I am? What was I supposed to do? Cry? It wasn't that bad, just a little blood. Seriously.

I poured iodine on it and changed the bandage three times a day. I didn't get an infection and never felt like the cut was too painful. But the bones in my feet ached from all the walking I did on the rain forest paths. I still thought I was just sort of a wimp about that. 

Later I was told by a doctor that all that hiking I had done with backpacks had caused micro-fractures in the bones of my feet because they were positioned just a tad wrong and thus couldn't absorb the repetitive impacts of walking very well. As I've gotten older the pain has gotten worse and it's compounded by the fact that I'm visually impaired, so I can't drive and I have to walk a lot more than most. It isn't a good combination. 

Creative Commons image by Brent of

Creative Commons image by Brent of

So, I was delighted to discover the idea of an electric scooter. I need something that can go as slow as a brisk walk (so it doesn't go faster than I can see and cause me to run off the edges of curbs) and which is small enough to go on the sidewalk. This week my first electric scooter came and I took my kids to preschool for the first time without pain. The scooter is tiny, a two wheeled contraption that hardly enlarges the area I take up on the sidewalk. It requires a bit of balance to ride but fortunately balance is one thing I can do. It doesn't really get me places faster because I have to ride on sidewalks and go really slow but it will mean that I can go many more places than I could before. I may have to push it up the particularly steep hills around here but it is going down the hills that bothers my feet, not going up. 

Euphoric from my first school run with the scooter, I sat down to work and started sorting emails. Then I got a message from the users of a forum I frequent with a question of uncanny relevance: "Are disabled people giving electric scooters a bad image?" The author of the question explained that he likes the look of these little scooters, which are actually widely viewed as a bit nerdy. He wanted to ride one but was afraid that people might think he was disabled if he did because so many people with disabilities are now riding these little gems.

My reaction went from joy that I could tell someone about my awesome scooter, to irritation that this clod thought that someone assuming he might have trouble with his legs was such a terrible thing and finally to dawning realization.

Oh, I get it.

So, here's what I wrote in reply: "I’m sure you meant to ask “Are disabled people giving mobility scooters a badass image?” Because disabled people aren’t bad and can’t give anything a bad image. Using a mobility vehicle that doesn't contribute to climate change and not letting a little health problem keep you out of the fast lane is badass, no? I mean when you see that disabled person riding down the sidewalk, carefully avoiding toddlers and pets, you think 'Dude, that lady is badass and hot too. I hope I’m that cool when I get to be old and not so mobile. Now I even want to get one of those scooters so I can be kinda like her and maybe she’ll even ask me out.'"

I'm in far too good a mood at the moment to let some unthinking comment get me down. Electric scooters look geeky but they get the job done. I don't really know or care if anyone except the preschool set thinks I'm badass anymore (at forty), but I do often look at people and think, "That's badass!" when they are pushing their limits and finding hacks to get around troubles. There is plenty to be cynical about in the world and I often am, but it's nice when a mix of technology and creative problem-solving takes away a burden.