I biffed out ridiculously, and ridiculously hard about a month ago. I was doing something normal, healthy, and 100 percent sober, too: jogging with my dog on the sunny, beautiful afternoon that was March 2 in Portland. She's still a bit of a puppy, though, and when she yanked me off the sidewalk by her leash (she probably saw a squirrel), I tripped over a sprinkler head (I think... it all happened in about half a second), my knee waaayyyy hyper-extended, and I heard a sickening crack before falling to the ground crying out—not so much in pain as in the crushing certainty that I'd just done something gnarly.
I was right! I fractured my tibia at the knee, and a week and a half after the initial injury I was sitting in an OHSU hospital bed with a plate and four long screws that now run from one side of my bone to the other. (A situation far more painful than the original injury, as you might imagine.)
I can't put any weight on my right leg for another four weeks, which means I've been getting around with a combination of crutches (good for maintaining a bit of physical activity, bad if you need hands) and a wheelchair, which presents challenges of its own. It's great for upper body strength, but it takes way too long to make my way down city streets. I never noticed that some of those divots in the curbs at the corners of sidewalks are really steep! And formerly insignificant bumps, cracks, and pavement irregularities are suddenly a challenge. I resourcefully used the corner of food cart to heft myself over a bump the other day, and I'll let just about any sketchy stranger who offers to give me a push. I even held one guy's paper bag of malt liquor while he wheeled me to the bus stop—thanks, buddy.
Long story short, it's been a big inconvenience to get around, and I have a better perspective on what it would be like to have to go by wheelchair all the time (note: if this ever happens, invest in an electric model), even in a city that's lauded for its accessibility. I'm not trying to complain about my temporary predicament, but I did want to point out that one of the few highlights of the whole debacle has been TriMet, because TriMet takes a lot of shit, some of it deservedly, and it may as well be noted when they do things right, too.
If you ride public transpo, you've seen the ramp that folds out onto the sidewalk for peeps on wheels a million times, and the securing straps that keep you situated at the front of the bus. Not one single person thinks getting on and off a crowded bus on crutches is a fun idea, so whenever I take the bus downtown for work, I opt for the chair/ramp. It is awesome. It's the bus equivalent of flying first class—you get on and off first, people have to move for you, and every driver I've encountered so far is so busy being sweet and accommodating that none of them has remembered to check my fare (I have a pass! It's not like I'm hiding anything!).
Hopefully this will never come up for you, but if it does, and you find yourself faced with spending some travel time in a chair, know that borrowed rides and cabs aren't the only safe, comfortable options. In fact, I'll even be one tiny bit disappointed to go back to being a regular-ass rider, maybe. (Probably not.) Anyway, thank you, TriMet. You don't do everything right, but you do pretty fantastic with wheelchairs.
- ILLUSTRATION BY ALEX DESPAIN
- Hey girl, try the bus!