My first week as a Scooter Fatty
Because of the generosity of many folks in the FFF and Fat Acceptance communities along with a lot of personal friends on Facebook, I was able to get a used TravelScoot with the money that was raised (the owner was upgrading, so this one needed a new, loving home). Thank you thank you thank you!
I admitted on my blog, Adventures of a Part-Time Wheeler, that I was really anxious about taking the plunge and actually using it because of a dreadful mix of internalized ableism and fat shame. This anxiety is something that I’ve dealt with every time I adopt a mobility aid, whether cane, crutch, rollator, manual wheelchair, or the scooter … new kid in this mix. Every. Damn. Time.
A good chunk of this is because of ableism (both internalized and not) and the fact that the US culture is one where getting around without help is the pinnacle of proper citizenship. If you must employ mobility aids, you’d better be doing everything in your power to be able to walk, no matter the consequences. If you absolutely must roll, then you have to do whatever it takes to not be one of those people who uses a motorized chair or scooter. It’s the hierarchy of mobility and it puts a lot of folks in a really shitty spot … especially fat, disabled people.
I’ve written here about how fatness and disability intersect and get jumbled around, especially in the guise of concern trolling, so I’ll leave that alone and talk specifically about my time as a newly minted scooter fatty. Sound good?
I decided to do my first trial on a day where I only had one meeting, and that was with a scholarly friend who has known me since my first year of my masters degree. With the battery hooked to the scooter and the handlebar indicator showed green, I was off to campus for my meeting!
I live less than a mile from campus (easily walkable by most folks with typical mobility), but there is a pretty sizable hill near my house on the way … this was one of the things keeping me from using my manual wheelchair to get to and from campus, as well as one of my motivators to get a scooter. Anyhow, I was a little nervous at first because I could hear the motor fight on that hill, but when we got to the top it was pretty much smooth sailing (except for cracked sidewalks, trash bins in the way, and all the other access barriers wheelers deal with in public spaces … but those are things I’m used to negotiating with my manual chair). I zipped onto campus, down some better maintained sidewalks, dodged teenagers with headphones or texting while walking, and made my way to the student union.
Since this scooter doesn’t immediately scream “mobility scooter” (which was one of its many selling points for me, although the main ones were the foldability and being light weight, as my home is not wheeler-friendly), I was a little nervous going in to the building. Would someone accuse me of using some sort of non-indoor scooter inside, much like when I would zoom around on my Razer kick-powered scooter in undergrad (yes, in academic buildings … shush, I was young)? I was also acutely aware of the sound the motor made in the echoing entrance. Would people stare as I went past because of the whirring noise?
I met up with my friend and it gave me a chance to talk about my emotional processing around the scooter (and the way that my spine is essentially falling apart despite the titanium added almost two years ago). She told me that the whirring wasn’t loud and it was probably my anxiety amplifying the noise. She also noted how it was easier to walk and talk with me with the scooter riding a little higher than a wheelchair, which I also think is that it’s easier to have a conversation when someone isn’t fighting hills with a manual chair, or crummy pavement, or pain that will stop me in my tracks if my muscles are moving me around the world.
We chatted for a while, I walked her to her next meeting so we could chat a bit longer, then decided to head back home. I chose a winding route through campus that I hadn’t taken since spine crap ate my ability to move around the world easily. I also decided to call up a friend and chat during my stroll (another thing that’s difficult to do when using a lot of mobility aids, as hands are in use!) and she got to be the one who heard me swear as the battery died. I then remembered that my husband charged the battery for me, but neither one of us looked up the manual online to see what kind of light indicator meant it was fully charged (and being 30-somethings, we are still used to batteries that can be overcharged and get damaged). Thankfully the scooter is light and I was able to push it to a parking lot so my husband could come and pick us up from our adventure (and now we’ve read the manual to properly interpret the light indicator!).
The next day was the first full day of use. Armed with a properly-charged battery, I made my trek to campus pretty easily (using a bike lane for part of it so I wasn’t dealing with crappy sidewalks … scooter wheels aren’t as soft as my manual wheelchair tires, so they are more jarring). The scooter fit behind my desk at my office job so I could park it for my four hours of receptionisting, then let me wander to a building I rarely go to because of distance and inaccessibility to chat before teaching, then be with the students I teach for their scheduled tours that day, then my class, then back home. Tuesdays are my longest days and usually burn me out for the next few days, but I was happy.
I realized how much of the world I was missing out on. I realized how much of my energy is spent on finding routes that don’t cause pain or risk falling. I realized how much I missed being able to walk home from campus after a long day to destress, look at the beautiful neighborhood that I pass through to get home. Even better was realizing that, once I figure out the best way to go about everything with the scooter, that my chances of going to the gym or going to dance classes are exponentially increased. That last one was a big part of why I wanted the scooter, so seeing that it’s actually helping is amazing!
The rest of the week was pretty amazing and really reinforced why I made this decision. Going to a meeting with my adviser and a couple other doctoral students in my department (kinesiology) was pretty difficult, but I think they got a chance to see a liberated Casey with hopes of dancing more and getting back to weight lifting. I admit that I’m still pretty anxious about the whole thing (I decided to not use it at a department-wide colloquium because it’s hard enough being a fat physical activity scholar some days), but I’m trying to focus on the happy and how many spoons I will be able to reallocate to fun physical activity and actually getting my schoolwork done.
The next scooter adventure? The Campus Rec Center to work out, as well as taking a classmate up on her offer to do free personal training for me at a different gym to show off her awesome training skills with the gimpy yet strong fat chick!