I was crossing the Princes Highway the other day on my mobility scooter, opposite the south exit to Quaama, my village. The speed limit on the highway there is 100kph. But I have a big, all-terrain scooter which can do 15kph on the flat, and the highway is only two lanes, and there’s good visibility in both directions. In my mirror I noticed a four-wheel drive waiting behind me, then I took off. The four-wheel drive overtook me on the other side of the road but then stopped at the village store, where I caught up with it.
‘Whoa!’ the driver said. ‘We were really worried! From where we were, we couldn’t see if there was anything coming, then off you went!’
I told him he needn’t have worried; I wouldn’t have crossed if there were anything coming.
‘Well, at least if you’d had any trouble, I had two nurses in the car!’
Really, I assured him. I wouldn’t have crossed if there’d been anything – anything at all – on the highway.
‘OK,’ he said, shrugging. ‘Well, you made it, and that’s the important thing.’
I relayed this conversation to a friend later but she shook her head. ‘No, no, no. He was right to be concerned. Seen from behind, with your high-backed seat and in a big hat, you may have been elderly. You may have been an escapee from a nursing home, with dementia.’
OK, except that I was a good 35 kilometres from the nearest nursing home, well outside the range of a scooter battery charge. I think my friend was being too kind.
Do you ride a mobility scooter? Do you find that you’re treated differently? Condescendingly, perhaps?
I find that people are friendlier, which on the face of it is nice. In Bega, our nearest real town, I use a little foldaway scooter and people often hold doors open for me. If the motor cuts out, as it does occasionally on a steep slope, there’s usually a bloke there immediately wanting to help. Often people just grin at me as they pass, and even in a country town people don’t necessarily do that if you’re walking.
Then there are the ones who approach you, smiling, and tell you how fabulous “these things” are, caressing the handlebars. Hmm. I’ve dealt with that phenomenon elsewhere, and I do apologise if I sounded a bit narky. But if someone’s beaming down at you from on top of two working legs, and telling you how lucky you are to have a mobility scooter, gratitude can wear a little thin.
I do appreciate my scooters – the off roader for around Quaama, where we have dirt roads, bumpy paddocks and no footpaths (and where I have two energetic dogs to walk), and my portable model that folds into the boot for shopping in Bega, or visiting the city. I even took that one on a cruise around New Zealand (I was very impressed with the “kneeling buses” in Wellington).
But sometimes I’d just like to be treated as someone with average intelligence. Enough, perhaps, to check for traffic before crossing the highway.