Friday, June 24, 2011

Unhealthy play

I’m not a sports fan. Never have been. Frankly, they’re boring. I might watch some figure skating or gymnastics (or hot boys swimming in the Olympics!), but I far rather see a play or a movie or a concert. I could be cute and say that this is, of course, because I’m gay, or I could be profound and say that watching sports is silly when there is so much more important stuff going on. But the simple truth is that I just find sports boring.

At least until now. I think I have another reason for not liking sports. There’s something sick about sports and the way people like them.

Last week, after the Canucks lost the deciding Game 7 of the Stanley Cup hockey finals, there was a riot, causing much damage in the handsome city center of Vancouver, Canada. It is a bit like this happening in San Francisco (from what little I remember of a summer spent in the Vancouver area when I was a child, the city is quite elegant and sophisticated, not to mention remarkably green and lush).

It is really tragic that this destruction came out of a game and that, as an article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, this isn’t unusual. What was unusual, as also noted in the article and bizarrely so, I think, was that this riot came after a hometown team lost. It was just a year ago when, as I noted in a post here, downturn Los Angeles was smashed up after the L.A Lakers won the basketball finals, which, weirdly enough, is far more typical.

Why riot when your team wins? Another fact that the Times article brought up is that, in these sports riots, the fans aren’t the ones throwing the bottles and lighting the fires. The actual rioting is usually done by anarchists and other rabble-rousers, along with those revved up after drinking, taking advantage of there being a large, boisterous crowd in which there is anonymity. But I don’t think this lets sports off the hook; these still are unique and still are sports riots.

About a week earlier, the L.A Times sports section had a big pictorial homage, including on much of its front page, to those who have played or competed and were victorious while sick or injured. Among those honored under the headline “Hurts so good” were football players who had played with the flu and runners who ran with sprained joints.

I can understand someone being hailed for saving a life or accomplishing something that improves society while ill or hurt. But for playing - even, yes, winning - a game? Shouldn’t they not be playing if they have a fever or a torn ligament? Shouldn’t they be taking care of themselves or getting care?

Instead, they are seen as heroes. Not only does this put things dangerously out of perspective - after all, kids have died after playing football in the hot sun or getting hit in the head - it reflects our society’s warped, nutty - yes, sick - view of the disabled as people to be pitied or admired or often pitied and admired at the same time.

Hey, it’s only a game.

Or, with it causing riots and such (heat-related deaths, brain injuries, etc.), is it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The year of (V)maxing out

I recently improved my experience with my Vmax, the voice synthesizer/computer attached to my wheelchair that I operate via a camera tracking a silver dot on my glasses and which I’ve now had for a year, by at least 100%. In late April, I was able to get an unit, called a WPAC, which enables the Vmax to run off my wheelchair battery.

I immediately loved this little thing. As far as I was concerned, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was able to leave the Vmax on, ready to use, all day. I didn’t have to always worry about its battery running out and about rationing it.

Then, one morning earlier this month when my attendant went to plug the unit into my chair, the plug wasn’t there. I had no idea how this happened - all I could think was that it came unplugged or wasn’t plugged in and got caught under my wheel when I was out - and I was devastated. I was crushed, ruined.

There was no way I could come up with another $400 for a new WPAC. And it didn’t help when my attendant called the company, DynaVox, several times, and they were less and less sympathetic, saying the warranty had expired, etc. I was stunned - yes, naively - that a company that had helped me so much (with the Vmax and the WPAC) could play such hardball (it is a business, after all....) and thinking of other options (hot-wiring....?) until, after more calls and waiting on hold, a senior manager agreed to send me a new cable in exchange for the broken one. (And when I get it, I’ll have it attached more to my chair so that it won’t dangle down so far when unplugged - lesson learned.)

So I’m happy again.

Happy, like I am with the Vmax - in general. I say “in general,” because, although it’s a fantastic help, I have learned a couple other hard lessons in this past year:

*There are definitely times and places where using the Vmax is very effective and other times and places where it really isn’t. It does help when, at least initially, people can see the screen and what I’m doing, but, in very general terms, the more comfortable (or sometimes even just familiar) people are with my speech, the less patient they are with my using the Vmax.

*Not unrelated to this and an even more difficult lesson is that, when I use the Vmax, people still have to stop and take time to listen to what I say. The difference with the Vmax is that - and this is a choice for those who know me - people don’t have to make the effort to try to understand my speech, but the hard fact is that, unless I pre-program it, I can’t casually toss off a comment.

I have learned other things - like typing in an initial comment before I approach someone and it sometimes being better (and okay) to just use the touch screen - but, all in all, the Vmax is a fantastic, life-improving device, even when I just use it to listen to my iTunes when I go out. At a recent gathering, I was able to talk to many more people or people I couldn’t talk to before. For me, this is what it’s all about.

At the same gathering, I also discovered that reciting limericks, especially naughty ones, on the monotonic Vmax is quite amusing. (Perhaps I’ll have another video out on YouTube...)

Friday, June 3, 2011

One less light left on

It may be a bit harder to say that Wal-Mart is evil, now that the mega-retailer is going green. (In addition to recycling, energy-saving practices and all that good stuff, I read - no, I’m still not going there - that one can buy organic produce there.) Now that summer is approaching, and I’ve been making reservations, I’m here to say that it is Motel 6 that is evil. I see again that the light may well be left on but not for the disabled.

In a post last summer, I wrote about how I stayed quite happily and cheaply at Motel 6's - they suited my simple needs and limited finances quite nicely, thank you - until several years ago when they stopped having two beds in their wheelchair-accessible rooms, forcing me, in an unfair and discriminatory manner, to reserve and pay for two rooms for me and my attendant. I wrote about taking a trip and being pleased when a friend told me that the Motel 6 in Bishop, CA, has a wheelchair-accessible room with two beds, which I reserved, and then surprised when the the Super 8 Motel in Gustine, CA, where I had reserved a two-bed, wheelchair-accessible room in which I had happily stayed several times, turned out to be a Motel 6 but with the same nice wheelchair-accessible room with two beds.

Well, like I said, I’ve been making motel reservations recently. In planning the same trip in July, I called the Motel 6 in Bishop and got the two-bed wheelchair-accessible room. No problem. Then I called the now-Motel 6 in Gustine.

And I was told that its wheelchair-accessible rooms have only one bed.


No, make that grrrrr.

This is, as far as I’m concerned, proof. This is proof that Motel 6 is unfair and discriminatory to the disabled. Not only that, it is proof that Motel 6 is making money off the disabled.

If this is not evil, I don’t know what is.

I don’t know what the deal is with the Motel 6 in Bishop. It could be the only Motel 6 left with a two-bed wheelchair-accessible room. I don’t know whether to bless it or boycott it. I do feel a bit guilty about staying there, but, hey, it’s what I need and the right price.