I have lived in all sorts of neighborhoods in my day, but the one that I currently live in with David is sort of odd, to say the least. First of all, it is in between all of the defineable neighborhoods in Seattle – not really Capitol Hill, not really First Hill, not really Central, either. Every day, I catch a bus that is about 5 blocks away from where we live and down a big hill. But the corner where the bus comes is a little creepy. An Ethiopian immigrant who owned a Cheese Steak restaurant was shot there a couple of months ago. There are many, many police interactions with the fine citizens of Seattle there.
Two days ago, after getting off the bus, I began my hike up the hill to our apartment. This older lady in a wheelchair stopped me.
“You walkin’ up the hill?” She inquired.
“Yes…” I said unsteadily, not sure what this interaction was all about.
“Can you push me to that store up there?” She asked.
“Um, sure,” I replied, although I had a particularly heavy backpack on that day. A part of me felt like this spectacular person in that moment, for being willing to do such a good deed.
I started pushing her up the hill. She was in what had to be the single heaviest wheelchair in the known universe. I literally had to use the entire force of my body to push her up the hill. This was compounded with the fact that the odor extending from the wheelchair was a combination of alcohol and urine, and I was trying to avoid inhaling too deeply from the fear of passing out from the stench.
As I started pushing her up the hill, I started to have all of these second thoughts. After all, I worked in the Bronx as a prosecutor. What if this was some kind of set-up, and someone was going to come and rob me now that I was occupied so completely with this task of pushing this lady up the hill? I was the perfect target. They could come, grab my handbag, make a breakaway, and I couldn’t do anything, because I couldn’t let go of the wheelchair because the old lady would go rolling down the hill.
With this sense of self-preservation, I started pushing the wheelchair as quickly as I could.
“Watch them bumps now!” The woman in the wheelchair screamed at me.
I was thinking to myself, what on earth? Here I am, out of breath, pushing your 500 pound wheelchair up the hill, possibly being set up to be a victim of a crime, and you have the audacity to tell me to watch the bumps that are the fault of the do-nothing to fix roads and sidewalks city of Seattle. Is that what I am hearing?
I tried to compose myself. “Ma’am, I can’t fix the sidewalks. I am sorry that it is so bumpy.”
The woman softened in tone. She started rambling on incoherently about people in the neighborhood and “when that white lady moved in,” and I voluntereed “Oh really?” and “How interesting” every now and again, just to avoid being thought of as rude.
We made it to the store, a corner convenience store.
“Well, we are at the store, now.” I said, leaving the wheelchair parked right outside. I was relieved that I could finally leave her and sprint the remaining three blocks up the hill to my apartment.
The woman clicked her tongue at me. “Can’t you push me into the store?” She asked.
“Fine,” I said, less than generous at this point in time (so much for my illusions about being a remarkable person).
I took the wheelchair and started pushing it over the threshhold bump that was the entry way to the store. Her wheelchair wouldn’t budge. I tried repeatedly, more and more frustration building with each try. Finally, with a force that can only be described as an out of body, freak of nature experience, I literally lifted the wheelchair to force it over the bump.
“Have a nice day,” I said, and turned and ran away before the lady could respond.