Being confined to a wheelchair my entire life has definitely opened the door to many unwanted (and embarrassing, I might add) awkward situations. However, despite the level of awkwardness, those times have eventually given me a good laugh in one way or another. Well, usually. If one thing is for sure, it’s that these awkward moments have left me with some pretty great stories to tell. With that said, below are five awkward situations only people in wheelchairs face based on my past experiences. You ready?
This has got to be one of the most awkward situations when you’re meeting someone for the first time. It’s bad enough that the other person reaches out to shake our hands not knowing we can’t reciprocate, but sometimes the way in which we react to the gesture can be even worse. Typically, when I find myself in this unfortunate event, I completely freeze and my immediate response is always “I, uh, hmm, um”. And, if I don’t babble anything initially, I usually just blankly stare until my nervousness subsides and I’m able to formulate words. I’ll never forget this one time I went to visit my brother at college and how awkward it was the first time I met his friend. His hand was positioned in front of me waiting to be shaken, but due to the awkwardness and my lack of response, he hesitantly pulled away and, instead, gave me a couple of pats on the head. Moral of the story? If you’re unsure about how the other party will handle a handshake, a simple head nod will surely suffice and is just as polite.
2. Running over someone’s foot
Okay, so nobody’s perfect, right? Although some of us may have been operating our wheelchairs for decades, there’s always the occasional slightly-embarrassing-and-super-awkward moment when you run over a stranger’s foot. Yes, it has happened to the best of us, but in our defense, it can be extremely difficult to maneuver our chairs through certain areas. Take concerts, for example. Driving through a crowd of people and doing your best to avoid their feet is pretty stressful, especially when these people haven’t a clue you’re there. We do our best to stay away, but sometimes we can’t escape the inevitable. With that said, it’s important to never take offense if someone in a wheelchair accidentally runs you over. Although, there are always those times when “accidentally” running someone over comes in handy (anyone with an older brother would understand). Oh, and whatever you do, please don’t respond to the person’s apology with a joke like, “it’s okay! I have nine other toes!” That hits us deep.
3. A dead wheelchair
It’s a known fact that every now and then we can all be a little forgetful which may lead to some pretty awkward situations. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. For us wheelchair users though, forgetting to charge our chairs is the ultimate really awkward situation, especially when we’re out in public. Who knows what I’m talking about? Typically, whenever I forget to give my chair a little juice, it’s always on a day full of errands and appointments. And if not, it’s on a day where I have misjudged the amount of battery I have left and only realize this once I’m an hour away from home. Maybe it’s me, but I’m pretty sure that’s just how life works. In the event of a wheelchair dying, there are two alternative options to choose from: call and ask someone to bring the charger, or ask one of your friends to push you back to the car. Either one is pretty embarrassing and almost always brings unnecessary attention to yourself. Although, it is pretty comical to watch your friends struggle as they manually push your wheelchair through the hustle and bustle of a busy area (been there, done that)!
4. Getting stranded
For many of us, having a wheelchair also means having a wheelchair accessible van. But, what happens when your van breaks down? Better yet, what happens when your van breaks down and you’re far away from home? Awkward! It’s easy to have a friend pick you up, but 9 out of 10 times that friend won’t have a wheelchair accessible van parked in their garage. Accessible taxis are always an option, but if you’re not in a major city, they are pretty tough to come by. Instead, you’re forced to come up with some logical and clever solution of getting your chair home and your van to the shop. All aboard the awkward train!
5. Elevator is broken. Please take the stairs.
We’ve all seen that dreaded sign at some point in our lives. Need I say more?