Monday, August 22, 2011

Back That Thang Up

A fascinating phenomenon occasionally occurs on 8th Avenue between 34th and 42nd Streets. It's called People Who Purposely Wheel Their Wheelchairs Backward and Cause Chaos With Every Turn of the Wheel.

This happens. I've seen it. Multiple times.

The first time it happened, I was shocked. I was walking up 8th Ave at a crisp pace when I spotted a wheelchair on the sidewalk in front of me. Just as I started making an arc to pass it, I realized that it wasn't moving slowly with the traffic--it was moving against it. And quickly. Towards me. I barely had time to jump out of the way. After the chair zoomed by, I immediately turned my head to follow the path of destruction--people were jumping out of the way, yelping, ooo-ing, tsk-ing, cursing, and staring. The woman in the wheelchair did not seem phased, nor did she look behind her. She was putting all her might into the task at hand--wheeling backward as fast as possible for no apparent reason.

At the time, I chalked it up to something I had learned when I spent a month in grand jury duty: a relatively large amount of drugs are sold on 8th Ave outside the McDonald's that advertises McDonuts. (I also learned what a glassine envelope is. And that crack is more reasonably priced than I would have guessed.) But even so, I can't imagine how many drugs you'd need to think that blindly wheeling yourself backward would be an entertaining way to pass the afternoon. 

Wheeling backward this woman did, though. I saw this shockingly handi-capable mischief-maker wheeling herself backward on the avenue again and again. Luckily, I was ready for her and had no problem jumping out of the way. I was not prepared, however, for the sight of her wheeling backward through traffic while crossing the street! I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and stared like a tourist at The Today Show. As if that wasn't enough, I later saw a second person--a man--wheeling himself backward along those same 8th Ave sidewalks. Is this behavior contagious? Did he see her and think it looked like a good time? Do they buy their crack from the same dealer?

Readers, I cannot answer these questions, and I cannot make sense of this occurrence. Can you? Have you spotted a backward-wheeler? This is one NYC trend I hope does not catch on in the suburbs.

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