So it's been three and a half weeks since my unfortunate incident on the slopes. The novelty of being at home and absent from work wore off after about...three days. Commutes and computers, photography and feature writing have been replaced by daytime TV and online shopping. God bless the person who decided that stores should flog their wares on the internet. If I wasn't able to stare at pretty clothes and plan festival outfits all day I would definitely have gone insane by now.
So far my outdoor excursions have been limited to hospital trips and the odd cheeky maccers drive through. Not quite the jam-packed social schedule that an active 22 year old is used to. So when my dear pal/temporary carer Rianna suggested an expedition to Sainsburys I jumped (not literally, of course) at the idea.
Although I'm pretty speedy on my crutches now, hobbling long distance can be pretty tiring. But I will say this - you can wave bye bye to bingo wings when you're on them. I've got rock hard muscles in my formally feeble arms now, which will definitely be a bonus when I get back to my pole lessons. Anyway, I digress. We decided to borrow a wheelchair for our supermarket sweep, mainly for the practicality but also for the giggles.
I surrendered my crutches and settled back for a joy ride courtesy of notorious speed demon Rianna. And as soon as I sat down, a noticeable change in the public's perception of me occurred. We deduced two main categories of stares: the sympathy looks and the desperately-trying-not-to-catch-my-eye quick glances. As I don't have a cast on my leg, it's pretty difficult to tell what's actually wrong with me. The combination of no obvious physical injury and a wheelchair resulted in most of the weekend food shoppers seeming to presume that I was disabled. Cue the stares.
I was either subjected to heart-wrenching looks of pity or completely blanked. I'm not sure which was worse. I guess actual concern is better than being ignored. I just couldn't believe how being in that chair transformed the way people looked at and treated me. Choosing to look over my head rather than in my eye felt like a social snub, as if I wasn't deserving of attention or capable of interaction. Like being below the normal height also meant I was below normal human contact.
It's something I've never really considered before, having never been in this situation or known anyone in it. But now I've experienced it first hand, even for such a short time, I can see why people who are permanently in chairs have campaigned for fairer, equal treatment. A broken back doesn't mean a broken mind, and while some physical tasks are impossible or much more difficult, holding a conversation isn't. It was an interesting experience, and what started as a simple shopping trip turned into a mini social experiment. I'm not sure whether I want to repeat it, but I'll make sure to share it if I do!