People will stare. Make it worth their while.

I found this meme on my wife’s Facebook wall today. At first I chuckled but as the day went on it kept sticking in my mind. Most of my life I thought I was a master of the art of making people stare. But at a fairly ripe age my wife would teach me how I knew nothing about it.

This is the story of how she lectured me in the fine art of making people’s stares worth their while.
People will stare
I grew up with the stares. There has never been a moment where certain people didn’t ogle me. Being so used to it I usually don’t even realize how much people stare at me. It has become second nature or part of living as wheelchair user in a bipedal world.

I still remember the discussions I had with my wife about it when we met. She was both surprised and slightly annoyed when we were out. I still remember how she would react by blatantly staring back at those who were most obvious about it. But after a while she changed tactics. She started doing exactly what this meme said – make it worth their while.

One of my favorite “make it worth their while” moments is when I ride an escalator. As most wheelchair users know, this is a pretty cheap trick. It’s fairly simple to use an escalator when you ride a manual chair. Get the track and when it starts going up, pull your wheels up to the step and your chair will rest nicely on the steps. All you have to do is to hold on to the railing all the way up like anyone else standing on their legs. I have always enjoyed the stares when I ride escalators. They go from the merely skeptical to the truly horrified.

The only trick that truly tops riding an escalator is doing wheelies down a short flight of stairs. For many years in my youth it topped the list of my “make it worth their while” moments. However as I have grown older I it has trickled down the list after I realized that witnessing it could cause a heart attack in some people – and then it suddenly not worth anybody’s while, after all.

Needless to say, my wife got a kick out of seeing me ride the escalators. She is hardly an exhibitionist but she certainly experiences a level of joy when I cause shock and horror in those who don’t know any better. So I wasn’t surprised when, after only having known her for a short while, she topped my escalator trick by putting icing on it.
She was standing behind me as we rode up to the second level of the local mall. Suddenly I feel her hand gently grabbing me by the chin and pulling my head back. I looked up and saw her face only inches away from mine. And when we made eye contact she leaned down and kissed me passionately.

I will not even try to explain what people think when they see us riding up and down the escalator, kissing like a pair of teenagers (did I mention that her perfectly plausible excuse is that we are at the perfect height when she is standing one step lower than me?) The stares we get are priceless. The looks of disbelief and puzzlement are mixed with surreptitious stares and snickers or outright laughter.

It is one thing to see a cripple ride an escalator – especially when the elevator is right next to it in plain sight. It is also – for whatever strange reason – an odd experience seeing a cripple expressing passion for a fellow human being (trust me I’ve tested it) in public. But to see both things at once apparently is so outlandishly absurd that most people don’t know what to do with themselves – and then they might as well have a good stare.

Truly a way of making all the stares in the world worthwhile!