While in my hometown of Columbus, Ga., recently, my pickup truck died, and I was forced to get creative so that I could get home.
That creativity led to a discovery that made me angry.
Because my first mechanic, and those who followed, taught me the basics of maintenance, I knew the battery was involved. Unfortunately, my 850-amp battery booster box (a standard piece of equipment for every vehicle) wasn’t enough to start this twin-battery, turbo diesel big honkin’ truck. And, with my mother at church, I didn’t have another vehicle handy to jump it off.
Not that her six-cylinder car would have been powerful enough anyway.
So, I stood on a chair, hoisted the one battery I could get out and put it on a seated walker. You know, the kind with wheels that allows stability, mobility and a seat for resting?
I then left my mother’s house, pushing the walker, and headed about a half-mile downhill on the sidewalk of Macon Road, a major thoroughfare, to the automotive section of a department store near the old Columbus Square Mall.
Step by step, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated and angry.
My mother’s street, and many nearby, doesn’t have sidewalks, so I walked in the street. When I got to Macon Road, I found the “ramp” for wheelchairs and other rolling devices almost too steep to push the walker up. I found the same thing at each curb.
As I proceeded, the cracks in the sidewalk made movement challenging. A work crew had left souvenir granite pebbles along the way, and dodging them was impossible. The vibration caused the battery to shift several times, almost falling off once.
The concrete surrounding the sewer covers was elevated, and I had to lift the walker to continue my trek.
So bad was that initial section of sidewalk, that I decided to cross the street. A few feet later, however, I encountered a pole in the middle of the sidewalk.
A pole. In the middle of the sidewalk.
My choice was to step off the curb into the road or go into the grass.
The grass was greener.
At the department store, the ramp for wheeled devices was easier to negotiate, but those raised bumpy things designed, I think, to slow the rolling motion, created more vibration that almost dislodged the battery.
The bad news was that the store didn’t have what I needed.
Rolling uphill was even more of a challenge.
Crossing the street at the light after pushing the walk button could have been deadly.
Who decides how long we get to cross the street?
I had to cross six lanes of traffic and a median (fortunately, it wasn’t raised). But, the “don’t walk” hand was flashing by the time I got to the second lane. The light had changed by the time I got to the middle of the fifth lane.
Decent folks. No one tried to run me over.
Well, except for that guy speeding down the sidewalk on a motorized two-wheel scooter built for a child. I stepped off the sidewalk to let him pass.
He thanked me. I muttered something in my head.
Exhausted, I made it back to my mother’s house, thankful that I had survived the trip and that I can walk without a mobility device.
I wondered, though, who is responsible for this sidewalk mess and how it is that those responsible don’t realize the sidewalks are not truly accessible to those who use wheeled devices for mobility.
I also hope that those who are responsible don’t find themselves needing to use wheeled devices on those sidewalks. Maybe, just maybe, they could put themselves in someone else’s wheelchair or walker, and experience it firsthand.
Maybe, just maybe, the sidewalks will be fixed.