8.27.2016

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Ugly Mobility Devices

I never thought I could get excited about a mobility aid. Obvi. I love shopping, but of all the packages I’ve welcomed into my life, this isn’t one I ever thought I’d sign for.

Recently, I’ve had to accept that I need a little help staying vertical. A cane isn’t cutting it so I’ve been experimenting with rollators (formerly known as walkers). But on long days when my legs straight up quit, a rollator just isn't enough to keep me on the dance floor (okay, the regular floor). Luckily, we live in The Future where rollators exist that, with a few slick moves, convert to pushable chairs for just such occasions — like real-life Transformers but with less fire power. What? This blew my mind. 

Until I actually saw them.

Because BMW doesn’t make them yet (and neither does Hasbro), most are not designed with style in mind. After much research, I narrowed my choices to two. Frankly, there aren’t many on the market.

Option A

Pros: Reasonably Priced

Cons: An electric-purple, clunky assortment of cables complete with side bags, front bags, rear bags (wtf does anyone put in all those bags?) plus an unnecessarily wide seat belt and a Super Big Gulp sized cupholder. Had it come to this? What would attachment to this device say about me? Were all those bags just a sneaky stepping stone on the road to becoming a full-fledged Bag Lady? Despite its accessories, and its overwhelming purpleness, it looked so medical. I hated it. If this were indeed a Transformer, it would surely be a Decepticon.

Option B

Pros: Sleek, streamlined, European (natch). Comfortable and easy to maneuver. Available in colours like ice blue and cloud grey, for the born after the 1930s crowd. Almost cool. I mean, it’s still a walker, but it was a lot closer to Optimus Prime than Option A.

Cons: It costs all the money

Ignoring some functionality concerns and the obvious style ones, I decided to suck it up and go with the morally sketchy Decepticon. The Banker looked at me pityingly as I held back tears and told myself I was gonna need some killer outfits to distract from its heinousness. I was desperate to get the purchase over with but the hunk of aubergine anxiety wouldn’t fit in our car. (NB: Calling it ‘aubergine’ didn't make it suck less. I tried). We left frustrated and empty-handed.

That night, I sent my ginger bestie a pic of the twisted piece of purple scrap metal and shitty nylon bags. My phone rang immediately. “Absolutely not. You cannot take that to Barcelona.” (I’m going to Barcelona.) The next words out of GB’s mouth were, “What happened to the sexy one? Why aren’t you getting that one?” Sexy walker; her words, not mine.

My ginger bestie and I have been informing each other’s shopping decisions since 1998. Our post-work retreats to unwind and gossip about that B who was always trying to steal our boyfriends were a critical part of our early friendship. A sideways look, and we knew we were headed to the mall as soon as 5 o’clock hit. And not just any mall. We happily drove the extra 40 minutes to get to the good mall. The history of our sisterhood is marked by our most memorable scores. The lavender python boots of Amsterdam. The lemon yellow silk skirt. She even helped me buy my four poster bed, which I later gifted to her after I got married.

We are experts on rationalizing each other’s extravagances; easily coming up with a quick 10 reasons to justify a splurge. We’ve cultivated a legit fear of the outfit that got away. Most recently, "You don’t have red patent leather ankle boots. That is a glaring hole in your fall wardrobe," helped push the plastic to the register.

If this sounds materialistic and irresponsible, it’s because it totally is. Fortunately, we’ve matured some since the early aughts and are less likely to haphazardly wreck our credit scores. But these are life skills that die hard. After years of friendship, she was qualified and well within her job description as bestie to question the Decepticon purchase so ardently.

I also consulted with my barrister bestie (because every modern girl needs a good lawyer). My BB is decidedly more practical and way less likely to encourage a wallet apocalypse. Even she said, “You HAVE TO buy the nice one. Who CARES about the money? What if you have an event?”

Oh my God. Events. I hadn’t thought of that. I imagined myself struggling with the purple beast in a chic restaurant. Suddenly it seemed ludicrous to even consider taking a saddle-bagged Decepticon anywhere. This thing is going to be an extension of me, in a way. An expression of me. And everyone knows Decepticons are notorious douchebags.

It’s hard needing a mobility aid. Really hard. There's so much beyond my control that I must sacrifice because of MS, but there is no need for me to give up style. I accept that using a mobility device adds a certain je ne sais quoi to my image. But I don't accept that we can't do better than this. So how about designing a few more of these things with the cool kids in mind? Shallow or not, our stuff helps us establish our identities and Option A was crushing my soul.

In the end, our tribe sometimes knows us better than we know ourselves, especially when we get overwhelmed with change. Ultimately, Optimus Prime maintains several functional advantages in addition to the superficial style ones. (For one, it fits in the damn car). I know how fortunate I am to be able to find the scrilla for this purchase, and the fact that these items should be more affordable for everyone is an angry argument for another day. The sexy rollator has been ordered and truth be told, I’m actually kind of excited about it.

ooh, nice shoes

Geriatric purple would have been a disaster with my red leather ankle boots.


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19 comments :

  1. Love the pic. Love that you'll be going places with that thing.

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    1. Thanks mom. "That thing" has a name, and it is Optimus Prime.

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  2. You are right on, I recently had to buy a rollator and insisted on a smaller red one light enough that I could hoist the damn thing in the car myself. I cry and roll on the floor laughing (both! every time!) when I read your stuff. Thanks, I love you p-)

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  3. LOL love the Optimus Prime and the article.. I thought I was very close to seeing it when I was down, but I guess I will see it next time!

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  4. You make Optimus Prime look good!

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  5. And that is why I have the sleek titanium wheelchair (honestly! it's a medical necessity!) and not the aluminum clunker.

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  6. What rollator? All I can see are awesome boots...

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  7. I am jealous of your shoes. You are rocking transformers!

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  8. I've found my people! There is no reason for ugly in design. So, who makes this magic carpet?

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  9. There are so many things I would change if I could. I got cool red coloured forearm crutches but they don't fit Tornado tips which are easier on the arms. Shoes, I am hard on mine and struggle to find ones that offer support especially in hot months. My friend needs velcro shoes that have support but where is the style? I have seen fabric covers for walkers to add a bit of style but I am not willing to pay the high price yet. Oh I could go on but I would be ranting. Your new walker looks cool.

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