When I first got my mobility scooter I was very self-conscious. It felt like everyone was staring at me and I was feeling like I should really take to this better. Then my wife explained that everyone was staring at me. They were, she said, keeping an eye on me because I seemed to have such marginal control yet ran it as fast as it would go everywhere I went. I guess that’s true, but my scooter at full speed makes strolling people wait for me.
My wife is a walker. She’s one of those people you see striding along hiking and running paths, breathing deeply and getting exercise. We tried having me go along with her on walks, but my scooter is so slow that she constantly had to break stride and slow down so we could stay abreast. I’m not saying that my scooter is all that slow, but if I happened to be driving it in a supermarket when an earthquake struck, the local news would be doing retrospectives on the event by the time I escaped on my trusty steed.
My current scooter looks like a blue lawnmower that someone stuck a captain’s chair on. It’s a Pride Go-Go Chair and it was made as an ultra light duty mobility scooter that was semi-transportable. Which is to say that it can be disassembled into three parts and carried in a car trunk. The heaviest piece being the 60 pound base, what with the wheels and motors included. The chair comes off and the battery pack pops out, and those are the three pieces. It takes two people to get the base into the trunk of a car, and thus my giving it the moniker semi-transportable. Its four inch diameter wheels make certain that the rider feels every piece of gravel and cigarette butt they roll over, what with them pretty much designed for temporary use while traveling. It would do fine to carry one from their hotel room to the elevator and down to the floor with the restaurant on it, but beyond that, well everything is kind of beyond it.
I figure that there are a lot of people who would benefit from this scooter, but sadly I’m not one of them. The guy at the VA who ordered it for me was trying to help. When he learned that I didn’t have a van or pickup truck to carry a scooter with, he searched for and found a scooter that could be toted in the trunk of my Taurus. He was unaware that the VA program can include a specially adapted vehicle grant that can pay for a portion of a suitable vehicle –and pay to have a lift installed in it. So, he tried to get me a scooter I could carry in my car. Given the uses I would put a scooter to, it took no time to discover that although I could drive around with it in my trunk, it wasn’t able to take me any of the places my doctor was encouraging me to go.
I always thought that scooters were a pretty simple item. You need help with mobility, you get a scooter. But the thing is, as I learned, there are a number of different kinds of scooters and each has different strengths and weaknesses. The scooter pictured atop this article is my target scooter. It is a heavy duty scooter, also called a personal mobility vehicle. It’s a lot more like an off-road go kart than, say, a Hoveround mobility chair. While its turning radius makes it a bit clumsy for indoor use at home, it will not only take you across a park to fetch your crashed R/C airplane, but it will take you to the park at a sedate ten miles an hour. That’s a fast jog, compared to someone hoofing it. In other words, I can drive it down to my local Home Depot and then peruse the aisles in it. I can drive it a couple of miles over to friends houses, or take it down the riverside trail nearby on the Spokane River. It’s like a 4 wheel quad off road vehicle for those who want a pleasant, smooth ride and don’t intend to jump it over berms.
There are a whole range of mobility scooters, which is the next category. These are a heavier duty mobility chair, and are suitable for use in the home as well as going shopping. You just don’t want to try to drive the scooter to the store. It would take way too long with a maximum speed of less than 4 miles an hours. Okay, some of the hot ones will do as much as six mph, but you’d better be going downhill. Last is the mobility chair, which is like the Hoveround chair we all see on television commercials. The rise in mobility popularity soared when people found that Medicare would pay for 80% of their desired scooter, and quite often there were ancillary programs that could pick up the balance and make the scooter free for its recipient. At least one of the more well known scooter purveyors got themselves in hot water with the justice department as they bent the qualification rules to increase their sales, and also were charging higher retail prices to government subsidized buyers than those spending out of pocket. In my case, the VA will get me the scooter and then bill Medicare for the covered portion.
But even though there are three kinds of mobility scooters/chairs, they all come with extra features or accessories to customize them to a rider’s needs. Some have oxygen tank brackets and some have little tasseled sun roofs to protect sensitive skin. Some come with headlights and I wouldn’t be surprised to find one that included a home office computer and GPS. I have seen some pretty surprising add-ons. But I really look forward to finally having a scooter that will meet my needs, I just wish it was springtime instead of it being fall. Soon the temperature will drop below the tolerance level of my sleight mass body’s internal furnace. Which is to say that I get cold really easily; the picture of health, I have a comfort range that falls between 72 and 76 degrees fahrenheit.
So, right now, before the weather really starts to get testy, I am shopping furiously online for electrically heated snowsuits and stockings. Maybe even gloves. Yeah, gloves too. What with 13 inch knobby tires, I will no doubt be braving the pathways cut by snow plows and honing my ice driving skills to compete with the nursing home crowd that rides the kneeling buses every Wednesday at Wal-Mart. I will be driving the SUV of scooters, so watch it grandma, I’ve got inertia on my side! (At four thousand bucks I’d better have something!)
I suspect that I will still think that people are staring at me as I drive around on my mobile parole, freeing me from sitting through another falls and winter in front of the television, burning holes in my desktop with my soldering iron because I got distracted by a good part in the book I was also reading. But then, they will be staring at the brutish beast which I will have broken to be my willing steed, a visage of power and strength careening through the canned good section of the supermarket. Drivers of the loaner electric shopping karts will bow to my majesty as I needn’t pause to load my purchases into a car in the parking lot, but can make course for home uninterrupted. Go ahead and look. I am the Ambulator!