Friday, 31 August 2012

The Joy of Mobility

The true pleasure of riding a two-wheeled vehicle is the deep sense of mobility it offers. Driving generally makes me feel free: I am going where I want to go and, when it's a holiday drive, moving in the direction and at the pace I want to go. But a car only connects me visually to the landscapes and cityscapes I'm driving through. On a scooter, I smell the pizza shop at the corner, the flowers in a garden or the rotting food on the days when the green bins sit on the curb. On a scooter, I hear the radio in the car beside me and the conversation on the sidewalk. On a scooter, I feel the sun, the rain and most of all, definitely most of all, the wind. As each sensation comes and goes I am constantly reminded of the movement of my body on the scooter. And although I don't usually dwell on this, the risk of riding a scooter in traffic, the knowledge that my mobility could be destroyed by a wrong decision on my part or an idiotic move on someone else's part adds to my appreciation of the fragility of mobility and my responsibility for doing all I can to safeguard it.

Mobility  - moving easily and freely - is important to me and I do know how lucky I am to be able to enjoy it. I remember how my daughter screamed each time she was fastened in a car seat as a toddler. I related to the constriction she felt even though I was the enforcer. I also remember exactly how I felt the first time I left the Dadaab Refugee Camps in Kenya after witnessing the lives of refugees who had been stuck in the camps for almost twenty years. When the plane taking me away from the camp took off I felt such relief - and such guilt - at my ability to move. And I just have to hear the roar of a motorcycle to take me back to a time when I felt stuck as a teenager at the dining table when the boys in town were out on the roads moving at their own free will.

I've been thinking about mobility a lot lately because I've been riding my scooter back and forth to first a hospital and now a rehab centre where my husband is recovering from an operation to return mobility to a hip and leg (his story to tell, which I'm sure he will). As I watch him learn how to move about without putting weight on one leg, how to manage the simple steps of life that those without injuries or illness take for granted, I am both awed at how he copes and aware how difficult I would find the situation.

Yesterday, riding my scooter to see him I realized I was not enjoying my ride. In fact, I was so preoccupied by so many things that I was almost unaware of my own movement. Then, when I turned on a street that was nearly empty and downhill I felt the wind slap my face as I picked up speed, forcing me to pay attention. It was a wonderful moment.  I actually felt my eyes closing to savour the moment. Then I laughed at the ridiculousness of my reaction and I became aware of my movement again.

My husband and a friend with a bad knee used to have an inside joke; they described those without mobility problems as TABs or Temporarily Able Bodied. We are all TABS and those of lucky enough to enjoy free movement should be grateful.

To follow up on my post about trying to use my scooter as a beast of burden, here's a stair basket I found on wonderful Spadina Avenue in Toronto. It's perfect for carrying odd-shaped, light packages - keep the heavy items for under the seat or the backpack. Make sure to balance things properly.

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