Stuck inside as many of us were this Arctic week, I only dashed out to snow-blow the driveway in ten-minute spurts. That left a lot of time to reflect on how a snow-blower would make for a good handicap-walker. And so this story…
I live on a street with twenty-nine houses. There used to be a sign at our corner that read, DEAD END. But our annual block club meeting voted to have the sign changed to Cul de Sac in the hopes of upgrading our image, status-wise, if not property-value wise. Which really doesn’t matter that much because none of us plans to sell any time soon. Turns out that most of us moved onto the street at least twenty-five years ago when we had young kids and were mostly young ourselves. In those days, our block club parties involved volleyball games, sack races and trampoline bouncing. As the average age rose among us, our idea of fun group-activity morphed into bingo and guessing the number of M&Ms in a jar.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I noticed Maurice my next-door neighbor shuffling behind his snow blower, up our street, in the middle of June. I suddenly envisioned a whole new wrinkle to our neighborhood association meetings. Let me explain. See, Maurice, my next-door neighbor, is a daily walker. He goes to the local mall at least once a day. Or, I should say, he used to…but I’m getting ahead of myself. His preferred exercise regimen involves walking. No exercise bikes or stair-stepper machines for him. He just plain walks. Additionally, as a carry-over from his career as a process engineer, he has an aversion to mindless, unproductive activity. So, he gives himself a functional, purposeful destination for his walks…calls it value-added activity. You can often see him walking by with a Dollar Value bag holding one roll of aluminum foil or one roll of paper towels. If they sold bread one slice at a time it would give him all the more reason to regularly trudge to the mall.
But that stopped abruptly when his right knee gave out. Two months after surgery, I watched him struggling up our road (no sidewalks, just asphalt) using a four-legged walker—wheels in the back, split tennis balls on the front. I could tell he wasn’t happy with the contraption. Maybe it was the way he lifted it off the ground and banged it on the road with each step. After a couple days of this, he stopped perambulating but I could hear pounding and grinding coming from his garage.
To my surprise, he emerged behind his snow blower now a self-propelled walker pulling him up the street. I felt like asking him why he didn’t use his self-propelled lawn mower, more seasonally appropriate at least, instead of the two-stage Toro. But a moment’s reflection told me the mower was too light up front to support his weight on the handle bar. Arguably, his roto-tiller might have served as well, but the snow blower would cause less damage to the road if the little wheels he attached ever broke down. Besides, how would it look if he showed up at the mall with a roto-tiller?
When you’re retired, as most of us are, you have a lot of time on your hands to think. And since I was on the entertainment and activity committee for our block club meeting, I got to brainstorming…which was something I did for many years as head of ‘creativity’ in our ad agency. Analogies. What did Maurice’s adaptation remind me of? Dog sleds. Wheel barrow races at a picnic. Wheelchair basketball. Special Olympics. Handicap sports. So many of us neighbors were handicapped with mobility issues. But what if we could take turns using Maurice’s prosthetic on a ninja challenge course in the parking lot behind the church? My mind started whirring. The simplest event would be a timed slalom race between the parking lot barriers. Then a more complicated tracking between lawn chair obstacles while backing up. Again timed. Then perhaps a simple ramped, up and over, challenge. And from there, who knows? We might be launching a senior-mobility craze. Think of the Shriners, mature overgrown men wearing a Fez and riding mini-motor bikes in a 4th of July parade. We could start our own precision drill team and march in parades and between innings at our minor league baseball games.
Now I realize, Maurice’s idea is at the proto-type stage. But if the idea caught on, I’m sure entrepreneurs could refine the design and streamline the product like happened with homemade sailboards and snowboards and so many other fads. This might even become an Olympic event at a Senior’s Olympics. Wow.
I was going to suggest all of that at our block meeting this Fall, but I forgot.