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How to Load a Wheelchair Into a Car in New York City

You have issues with your legs and use a wheelchair to get around. Most people will consider this terrible news, but not you! You understand all the advantages — better parking, no waiting in lines, people are constantly offering to do things for you. One factor you didn’t consider, though, is that you drive and will have to transport the chair. Dammit!

Here’s how the process works. You push yourself towards your car which is parked on a busy street. Once you arrive at the passenger side, you realize you should be on the opposite side of the car. The unlock button on your key fob doesn’t function and you have to unlock the doors manually. You glance around to find that you’ve parked in the middle of a long city block and the accessible curb cut is about four miles away, at the end of the block (it could merely be about 50 feet but you’re terrible at estimating distance). So, you propel yourself to the intersection, roll down the rare curb cut, and push yourself back down the street to the car, hoping to evade being run over by the New York City rush hour traffic, dodging bike messengers and that one skateboarder.

You arrive at your car and unlock the door. As you open the driver’s side door, the driver of a bright yellow taxi cab leans on their horn to make sure you realize they are about to hit you. They swerve at the last minute narrowly missing your door. You punch the button to open the trunk and slam the door closed.

Now you have a decision to make. You must reach the trunk, so you can either make a U-turn in your chair, inching a little further into the hectic street, or you can just roll yourself back down the street towards your rear bumper. With the second option, you won’t have to travel farther into the street — you’ll just have to blindly roll down 23rd Street for about 20 feet or so, hoping the entire time you don’t get hit. You resolve that if you’re going to die, you’d rather not see it coming, so you choose the second option. With your eyes clenched closed, you push like hell and in a moment you make it to your trunk.

Of course, this is New York and space is at a premium. The late-model BMW parked behind you is mere inches from your rear bumper, so you wedge yourself and your chair between the vehicles. You stand up and brace yourself against your car as you disassemble the wheelchair.

First, the $500 gel-filled cushion, which feels no better on your ass than the $30 Amazon cushion, is removed and goes into the trunk. Then the back of the chair folds down to rest on the vinyl sling seat. Finally, the wheels come off and you arrange them in the car next to the cushion.

Now for the fun part. The last piece to go into the trunk is the biggest, most awkward piece to handle — the frame. Including the chair and the two cars, you are squeezed between roughly $100,000 worth of finely engineered machinery and you don’t want to scratch any of it, so you ever so carefully pick up the chair frame with one hand while bracing yourself on the bumper with the other. You feel your legs buckle and your grip loosen. With one brisk motion, you get the slightest corner of the frame onto the lip of the trunk. With the frame’s weight supported by the car, you delicately shove the frame the rest of the way into the trunk, being sure to rub the grease-laden axles across your ridiculously expensive cushion, while simultaneously putting the 200th scratch into your bumper.

You waddle back to the driver’s side door, gripping onto the car like a free-soloing rock climber, digging fingers into any available handhold, your fingertips either numb from the cold or burned off from the heat, depending on the season. The whole while, you mentally beat yourself up for buying an all-black car.

You also reflect on how you will have to repeat the entire process once you get home, as you grip the door handle, only to realize you inadvertently locked the door with the keys resting on the driver’s seat, silently mocking you.

Getty image by didesign021.

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