Mike ErvinMy new name for myself is Blower Boy.

My blower is what I call the new sip-and-puff device I added to my wheelchair back around Christmas. It was a long time coming. I’d been thinking about getting a sip-and-puff thingy for a few years, mostly at the beginning of every winter because each new winter is increasingly oppressive and I find I’m more crippled than I was the previous winter. If I wear gloves, I can’t move my fingers enough to drive my chair with my hand. And if I don’t wear gloves, my hand gets so cold that I can’t move my fingers enough to drive my chair with my hand. And each year, trying to move my arms and upper body while wearing a coat is getting to be more like trying to move my arms and upper body while wearing a suit of armor.

So in cold weather I was spending an increasing amount of time hiding indoors. And I’m really susceptible to cabin fever, so that sucked big-time. Then I’d give myself the old blower pep talk. My inner Knute Rockne bellowed that if I had a blower, I wouldn’t have to worry about all that. I could wear thick gloves and bundle up like an Iditarod musher and just settle back in my chair like I’m relaxing in a Barcalounger and drive all over hell and back in a blizzard using my blower. I could laugh in winter’s face! A big middle finger! You can’t stop me, Winter, you sadistic bastard!

But I admit the stigma held me back. If I use a blower, I lamented, I’ll look like a super-duper cripple, like Christopher Reeve. And even though I often see cripples out on the streets, I rarely see cripples out and about using blowers. And when I do see a cripple out and about using a blower, they’re never alone. They always have somebody walking beside them. And that person always walks as slow as if they were sleepwalking, so as to match the pace of the person in the blower wheelchair. I’ve never seen a person in a blower wheelchair burning rubber.  There are no Paralympic sprint races for people in blower wheelchairs.

I refused to surrender. I didn’t want to be one of those cripples. I knew it was idiotic to think that way because the alternative was to keep on being a cripple who stays home way too much in winter because he’s too damn stupid, proud and stubborn to admit he’s now a super-duper cripple who needs to use a damn blower. I didn’t want to be one of those cripples either.

It was either surrender to super-duper crippledom or surrender to winter. So I broke down and got a blower. Another thing that made it easier to take the leap was that I saw someone riding in one of those big clunky motorized carts that are available at grocery stores and Home Depots and places like that. The woman chugged through the produce section in what looked like slow motion. It reminded me that there are indeed cripple transport vessels that are slower and bulkier than a blower wheelchair. You never see a badass Paralympic athlete riding around in one of those either. I bet they’d rather be in a blower wheelchair.

I soon got pretty comfortable using my blower. I discovered one thing that sucks about it is I have to be extra alert while I’m driving so I don’t sip when I’m supposed to puff or puff when I’m supposed to sip and accidentally shoot out into oncoming traffic or over the edge of a cliff or something. Therefore, I must always drive sober. But that’s the sacrifice I make.

I could tell what people were thinking when they stared at me, or rather when they tried to pretend that they weren’t staring at me. They were thinking, “Look at that super-duper cripple!” And I’d say to myself, “Goddamn right I’m a super-duper cripple! I’m slow, but I’m steady.”

And then one day I was in a grocery store and somebody had left one of those clunky cripple carts clogging the aisle. A grocery store employee hopped in it and drove off. And she left me in the dust!

Blower boy got blown away.