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.