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The 'Stinky' Issue I Rarely Talk About as a Wheelchair User

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Don’t mind me.

I’m just the one-legged woman sitting on the ground in the middle of a blacktop parking lot, fixing my flat tire on my own in the 110-degree heat and sun, coughing and sneezing from the Sahara dust in the air. I’ll be fine!

I love my life. It’s still true.

No matter what else is happening there is always something that leaves me with the choice to laugh or cry. Fortunately for all of us, I know I do not look attractive crying like someone kicked my puppy, but I look fantastic laughing. Also, I find it easier to be optimistic when there isn’t mascara smeared across my face and getting into my eye, so I look all squinty like a pirate poking you with a sword or pointing a blunderbuss at you, telling you to walk the plank…”Matey… arrrgh!”

Anyway, the universe decided to gift me with a new challenge when my tire went flat. We aren’t talking about the low-flat of a slow leak. Nope. We are talking about the completely flat with a smooshed tire looking like a clock in some Salvador Dali painting.

Flat-flat. No air left flat. Arrrgh!

In case you’ve somehow missed the memo on this whole blog: I’m an amputee who currently exists rolling around in a red wheelchair like a bat out of hell. The day I became an amputee I discovered a magical vortex of time existed in my left foot and lower leg that allowed me to do things in a timely manner that now somehow take far longer. I’m not kidding! Getting ready to leave in the morning takes two to three times longer than is reasonable (what it used to take is my measure of reasonableness), and I cannot for the life in me figure out where those minutes disappear to every day. So when someone told me they’d noticed a flat-flat tire on my little turbocharged piece of heaven, I knew it was going to take me more time to handle it than it should. Living in Texas, that means I was going to have to contend with the sun and blazing daytime heat or the mosquitoes and sticky nighttime heat. I chose sunlight.

Sunlight + obscene temperatures of 100-115 degrees Fahrenheit + humans = stomach turning body odors.

Look… I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. I sit in a wheelchair every day. I notice kneecaps before I notice eyes. I can tell when you have butt-sweat before I see you have face sweat or pit sweat. It’s just a reality of having to watch where my wheels are going before being able to see all the tall people’s bright, shining faces.

I exist at everyone else’s bum level, which also, incidentally, means in the heat of midsummer I’m more than acutely aware of everyone else’s daily level of personal hygiene and care.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that other people in wheelchairs don’t usually tell you walking folks: Smegma is a real thing, and we can tell if you have it. If you don’t know what smegma is and choose to look it up, I am not responsible for what happens if you do. If you do know what it is, or if you didn’t and were foolish enough to look it up and now know, please understand everyone’s bits have the ability to grow those cheesy curds.

I get it — it’s summer and the heat takes the energy out of you so you think to yourself at the end of a long day, “I’m so tired. I’ll just take a shower in the morning!” But what happens is you are so tired you struggle so much that in the morning you completely rationalize not taking a shower because you can put on more deodorant and will just take a shower when you get home. So you just put on a bit more Old Spice than usual and go along your way. At some point, I know you’ve caught a whiff of what is brewing down there and made the purposeful effort to keep your knees tightly locked to keep anyone else from that experience. Meanwhile, yesterday’s smegma spent all night fermenting around your twig and berries or your poontang, and what was once a small issue has exploded exponentially, and everyone whose face is roughly at the same level as your bum smells it.

Yes. We smell it. All of it. Arrrrgh!

The other people in wheelchairs or with short legs can verify, but they’re mostly just too dang nice to tell you! Old Spice is gonna do nothing for what you’ve got brewing. I’m sorry… that I have to smell it. How is any of this related to my flat tire? I’ll tell you how. As people walked past one by one I could smell every one of them coming and going. Let me put it to you:

Which is the lesser of the weevils?

No one stopping to help a disabled woman, another human being, with their flat tire?

Or someone stopping to help and having their odor stop with them?

Can I confess?

I’m secretly (well, not so secretly anymore) quite happy no one stopped. There were several who paused to be baffled by the tools they didn’t recognize in my little box of tricks I keep in my car, tools I know how to use which in itself made me chuckle because I apparently know more than three grown military men (who I know spent hours sitting around the motorpool “working” on all sorts of military vehicles) as their commentary included, “Call roadside assistance because that is too much to deal with.”

Anyway… I’m glad no one stopped to help me. Why?

My disability doesn’t define me. It limits some things I can do but not all. I have always liked knowing I could handle things I need to without help. Why should that change because I now have one foot instead of the two I was born with?

If you ever see someone, anyone, dealing with a flat tire, the decent human thing to do is to offer assistance even if the person declines your help to do it alone. And for the love of doughnuts: Do the children, vertically challenged, and wheelchair riders of the world a favor and clean your bits in this heat.

Your significant other will appreciate it too.

Photo credit: yacobchuk/Getty Images

Originally published: October 30, 2018
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