The Androgynous Wheelchair

Autumn 2011 #7
The van from the wheelchair shop has come to Paradise, yet again.  I was unequivocal:

“Well, you can take that one straight back again mate.  It’s got a hole in it!”

Poor B5, fifth incarnation of Good Old Bugger, is a chair like no other.  Cold and utilitarian, it is no vehicle of discovery, no machine to take pride in; in short, B5 is no B4!   Nine months ago I wrote with voyeuristic horror about a device I examined at Brooklyn’s Independent Living Centre: the Attendant Propelled Mobile Shower Commode Chair *.  Poor B5 at least has the distinction of being Self Propelled, but there its dignityends.  My favourite Wife informed me that Little One gave Poor B5 a thorough going over yesterday, paying perplexed attention to the carpet directly beneath the mysterious and highly inappropriate ‘hole’.
A rare glimpse of the coy and camera-shy Poor B5

A note on Gender. 
B4 – indeed the entire Bugger stableis of the fairer sex.  It’s immediately evident in the cut of her jib and the style of her footplate. She has the graceful lines of a skiff under sail. Poor B5, however, is another matter.  Male? Female? I honestly can’t tell!  ‘It’ has no personality at all, nothing to suggest either masculine stamina or feminine wile charm.  ‘It’ is all white plastic, shiny stainless steel, and pallid blue vinyl.  Awkward and anaemic, Poor B5 evokes a lingering sense of pity.  How terribly, terribly sad.  Who ever heard of an androgynous wheelchair? 

Why, I hear you ask, would I write about such things?  If you aren’t actually asking that question, I know I surely am!  Why would I want to exhibit this obnoxious contraption on the World Wide Web?  Well, for starters there is a certain macabre humour about a Commode that I find appealing, but difficult to justify.  Then I admit that there is hidden within me – and not at any great depth, let it be said – something of the nature of the attention seeker.  (I have long had a visceral anticipation for the moment during the flight safety demonstration when the life jacket adorned airline stewardess says “and a whistle to attract attention”.   When they wave that whistle around I so badly want to blow it!  Give me the whistle! Pleeease let me have the whistle!).  And I guess it’s part of the human condition to parade our problems now and then for everyone to see.  Especially for us blokes who make such miserable patients and thrive on sympathetic attention.  But those are not my reasons for this expose.

No, the simple explanation is that Poor B5 needs friends; people like you in fact!  Poor, reclusive B5 is a hermit; ‘it’ desperately needs to get out.  In a full week Poor B5 has not ventured out of the house once.  In fact ‘it’ rarely leaves one particular room; a dark, airless room at that.    After letting ‘it’ have a couple of days to settle into our home I was gunning for a trip to town; a coffee in the mall, or at the very least a run round park down the road. Do you think Poor B5 was interested?  Not for a second.  A firm rebuttal.  No go. 

A definition:   Occult; (adjct)
1. hidden from view.
2. secret; disclosed or communicated only to the initiated.
3. of or pertaining to secret and supernatural powers or agencies.

I am not – not for one second – suggesting that there is anything unseemly or evil about Poor B5.  But one must ask: just what is ‘it’ getting up to in there, locked away in secrecy for hours on end?

Privacy is no secret.  Privacy is a curious practice, given that we diligently hide from each other the very things that we share most fundamentally in common.  Secrecy, in contrast, involves hiding what others do not know.   Privacy is a false blind, and provides a tangible bond amongst members of the ‘normal’ world.  We are united by the unspoken knowledge of our private commonality.  And that, I think, actually explains my strange desire to tell the world about Poor B5, the Self Propelled Mobile Shower Commode Chair.  If everyone had one, then concealing ‘it’ from view (as we hurriedly did yesterday when visitors came by!) would simply be a matter of privacy.  But because a Commode is not part of the ‘normal’ person’s world, privacy quickly becomes secrecy. 

Secrecy I cannot abide.  If I tell the world it is a bid to belong to the world.  You know my secrets, therefore we aren’t all that different, and therefore I am not alone. 



*Attendant Propelled Mobile Shower Commode Chair (item 11:45:037), available in fetching surgical stainless steel and white plastic. This accessory makes a robust attack on most readings of the word ‘Independent’, and like so many of the devices on display, its design has a wordless power to chill the core of a man.  (Guiding Star, July 2010).

4 thoughts on “The Androgynous Wheelchair

  1. Ann

    Poor lonely B5 has a relative sitting in my shower, although mine is an attendant type commode/shower chair… Privacy is, at best, an illusion… Funny post, Roderick!

  2. Barry

    G’day Roderick. Hmmmmm!! Maybe some accessories for B5! I think He/She might be a little jealous of the competition?

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