Jumat, 25 Desember 2009

Bars, Beers and Bathrooms

Secretly I don't really get the point of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Who are these people who determine whether or not a building is "up to code"? Do these people use wheelchairs? Have these people actually seen a wheelchair?

Bars are especially problematic. This poses a problem when you're young(ish), single and want to avoid becoming a social recluse.

A few weeks ago my old teacher friends invited me to Joe Squared Pizza for happy hour. I'd been there before and knew I could get in the building, but remembered a small/inaccessible bathroom -- potentially problematic at this particular point in my disease's progression. Irrationally, though, I ignored these concerns, convinced my roommate to join us, and headed up to North Avenue for a much needed beer (and less needed pizza). Everything was fabulous -- barbecued chicken pizza (yum), sierra nevada beers (also yum) and good company. Unfortunately, though, I was faced with the inevitable need to pee after my first beer and headed to the bathroom while I was still coherent enough to negotiate the potentially problematic toilet situation. I managed to finagle myself through the door, and grabbed onto the sides of the bathroom stall to pull myself up. I shut the door to the stall, pulled down my pants and gracelessly flopped onto the toilet: victory! Shortly after my victorious flop, though, I realized that my descent was slightly longer than usual. In fact my knees were parallel with my chin -- it was some sort of mini-toilet that seemed to be only inches above the ground. Weird. Ready to leave the stall, I grabbed the toilet paper holder with my left hand, the side of the door with my right and leaned forward before pushing up: defeat. I managed to creep about one millimeter in an upward direction before flopping back onto the toilet. Problem-solving in situations like this is rapidly becoming my forte, but there are only so many possible solutions in a bathroom stall. I tried pushing off on the back of the toilet, holding on to the other side of the door, and even opened the door to grab my wheelchair (which wouldn't fit into the stall and was thus completely useless). Ultimately I gave up and convinced myself that someone would inevitably have to pee and would come in the bathroom to help me. So I waited -- all the while wincing at the disgusting toilet seat I was sitting on and wondering when the floor was last washed. Finally, after what seemed like eons, my roommate came in. The first thing she saw when she opened the bathroom door was the stall door open, my wheelchair jammed as far into the stall as I could possibly fit it, and myself, pants down, elbows on my thighs grimacing.

She giggled, "Would you like some assistance?"

"Meg -- I am so glad you came, I have no idea what to do. I've tried every possible way to get off this toilet, and I'm stuck. Does everyone out there think I fell in?"

Meg walked to the stall and pulled my wheelchair out of the way. We decided that I would push up as hard as possible while she pulled me from under my armpits. The plan seemed foolproof: my legs would initiate the proper movement, and Meg's strength would help execute it. Like most of my plans, though, it didn't work -- my legs failed to initiate and Meg failed to execute anything other than a maniacal giggling fit rendering both of us speechless and unable to properly breathe. It really was so absurd. Half of me wished someone would come in to help us, and the other half was so relieved that no one was there to witness the spectacle.

We tried a few more times but kept our success percentage firmly at zero. I decided it was time for Plan B.

"Meg, this is what we're going to do. I'll get on the floor and pull up my pants while kneeling. Then I'll crawl out of the stall to the sink, and I'll grab the sink with one hand and you with the other and get up!" Genius, the plan was pure genius.

Meg didn't like the idea of me crawling around the floor of a public bathroom, but I figured this was no time to concern myself with cleanliness. I pulled up my jeans as much as possible, pushed myself onto my knees, pulled up my pants and began to crawl. The bathroom was pretty small, so I reached the sink in a matter of moments. Once I had the counter firmly beneath my right hand, I pulled my chair closer to my left side and looked up at Meg. All 5'8" of her looked very serious; so serious, in fact, that I started to laugh again. Then she started laughing, and we were both, once again, rendered completely useless.

"We need to focus. We can do this, we just need to stop laughing." Stating the obvious is another one of my specialties.

Surprisingly, plan B was met with even less success than plan A. And now, instead of sitting on the questionably clean toilet, I was stuck on the unquestionably disgusting floor. The upside was that Meg and I were still giggling -- attributable perhaps to the beers we had consumed, but nonetheless preferable to wallowing in what seemed to be a helpless situation.

Just then, a firm knock on the bathroom door interrupted our ridiculous exercises in futility. It was my friend, Peter:

"Hooks, are you okay? What are you two doing in there?"

Meg opened the door. "We can't get Kate off the floor. Care to assist?"

All 6'3" of Peter pushed himself into the small bathroom, rolled my wheelchair out of the way, and heaved me off the ground. It seemed almost insultingly easy for him. I was standing within seconds, buttoned my still unbuttoned pants, washed my hands, and let Meg hold the door while Peter pushed me out.

We returned to our table of friends who predictably asked me what happened.

I intended to share the truth, but Peter beat me to an answer,

"We just had a threesome in the bathroom. It was awesome."

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